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Amazon Studios’ big-budget The Lord of the Rings TV series is leaving the franchise’s longtime home in New Zealand and moving production to the UK starting with the upcoming second season.
The so-far untitled The Lord of the Rings series, which recently wrapped principal photography on Season 1, is scheduled to premiere on Prime Video Sept. 2, 2022. Season 1 post production will continue in New Zealand through June 2022, and pre-production on Season Two will begin concurrently in the UK right after Jan. 1, 2022.
The elaborate sets built for the show will be shipped to the UK. It is unclear where exactly in the UK The Lord Of the Rings will shoot as part of the streaming studio’s efforts to expand its footprint in the country. Amazon, which has multiple series filming in the UK, is currently in the process of booking stages to house the sets.
While J. R. R. Tolkien, on whose works the series is based, is English, and Tolkien reportedly based the Shire’s landscapes, climate, flora, fauna on rural England, LOTR is closely associated with New Zealand where Peter Jackson filmed his Oscar-winning film trilogy.
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Based in Auckland, the $465 million first season of LOTR qualified for a 20% tax rebate from New Zealand’s Screen Production Grant, which was increased to 25% ($116 million) this past spring. Amazon will now not pursue the 5% increase as the production would no longer meet all criteria for it.
“As we look to relocate the production to the UK, we do not intend to actively pursue the Season One MoU five percent financial uplift with the New Zealand government or preserve the terms around that agreement, however we respectfully defer to our partners and will remain in close consultation with them around next steps,” said Albert Cheng, COO & Co-Head of TV, Amazon Studios.
The pandemic, which no one anticipated when the series was first greenlit, impacted the show’s production which was shut down — like virtually all American series — at the onset of the global outbreak in March 2020. Because of how New Zealand has tackled Covid, closing its borders to keep the virus away, the cast of the show, more than half of whom are British, stayed in the country for about two years without being able to spend holidays with their families. The lockdown also prevented Amazon executives from visiting the sets to monitor the high-profile — and hugely expensive — shoot.
A move to the UK will allow the British cast to stay close to home. Meanwhile, the series is expected to hire a new UK-based crew as the majority of the Season 1 crew were local, based in New Zealand.
Also factored into the decision to move production was the opportunity to film in other locations around Europe. For instance, HBO’s Game of Thrones, whose primary location was in Ireland, filmed in a number of other European countries, including the UK, Spain, Malta, Iceland and Croatia.
“We want to thank the people and the government of New Zealand for their hospitality and dedication and for providing The Lord of the Rings series with an incredible place to begin this epic journey,” said Vernon Sanders, VP and Co-Head of TV, Amazon Studios. “We are grateful to the New Zealand Film Commission, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, Tourism New Zealand, Auckland Unlimited, and others for their tremendous collaboration that supported the New Zealand film sector and the local economy during the production of Season One.”
Developed by J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay, The Lord of the Rings series is described as an “epic drama” set in the Second Age of Middle-earth — thousands of years before the events of the Lord of the Rings films and the novels by Tolkien. The series brings to screens for the very first time J.R.R. Tolkien’s fabled Second Age of Middle-earth’s history. Beginning in a time of relative peace, the series follows an ensemble cast of characters, both familiar and new, as they confront the long-feared re-emergence of evil to Middle-earth.
Headlining the ensemble cast are Cynthia Addai-Robinson, Robert Aramayo, Owain Arthur, Maxim Baldry, Nazanin Boniadi, Morfydd Clark, Ismael Cruz Córdova, Charles Edwards, Trystan Gravelle, Sir Lenny Henry, Ema Horvath, Markella Kavenagh, Joseph Mawle, Tyroe Muhafidin, Sophia Nomvete, Lloyd Owen, Megan Richards, Dylan Smith, Charlie Vickers, Leon Wadham, Benjamin Walker, Daniel Weyman, and Sara Zwangobani.
Payne and McKay serve as showrunners and executive produce with Lindsey Weber, Callum Greene, J.A. Bayona, Belén Atienza, Justin Doble, Jason Cahill, Gennifer Hutchison, Bruce Richmond, and Sharon Tal Yguado. Wayne Che Yip is co-executive producer and directs along with J.A. Bayona and Charlotte Brändström. Christopher Newman is a producer and Ron Ames is a co-producer.
A world-renowned literary work, and winner of the International Fantasy Award and Prometheus Hall of Fame Award, The Lord of the Rings was named Amazon customers’ favorite book of the millennium in 1999 and Britain’s best-loved novel of all time in BBC’s The Big Read in 2003. The Lord of the Rings books have been translated into some 40 languages and have sold more than 150 million copies.
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