Ama­zon to do ‘Lord of the Rings’ TV se­ries

Com­pany look­ing for a dra­matic show that could be a hit glob­ally, like ‘Game of Thrones’

The Daily Star (Lebanon) - - ENTERTAINMENT - By Jef­frey Dastin

In what may be its big­gest and most ex­pen­sive move yet to draw view­ers to its stream­ing and shop­ping club Prime, Ama­zon.com Inc. has pur­chased the global tele­vi­sion rights to “The Lord of the Rings,” the com­pany said Mon­day.

Ama­zon said it will pro­duce a mul­ti­sea­son se­ries that ex­plores new sto­ry­lines pre­ced­ing au­thor J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Fel­low­ship of the Ring,” the first in­stall­ment in the famed fan­tasy tril­ogy.

Filmed in New Zealand by di­rec­tor Peter Jack­son, three movies made of Tolkien’s tril­ogy in the early 2000s gar­nered nearly $3 bil­lion at the box of­fice and 17 Academy Awards.

Ama­zon ac­quired the rights from the Tolkien Es­tate and Trust but did not say how much it paid for them. The es­tate, HarperCollins and the films’ dis­trib­u­tor New Line Cinema will help Ama­zon pro­duce the tele­vi­sion se­ries.

The project un­der­scores a shift in Ama­zon’s video pro­gram­ming. Its stu­dio started in 2010 with a fo­cus on unique shows beloved by crit­ics, such as “Trans­par­ent,” about a fa­ther com­ing out as trans­gen­der to his fam­ily. That was a win­ning for­mula for at­tract­ing Hol­ly­wood tal­ent, awards and buzz, though not Prime sub­scribers around the world.

Now, Ama­zon is look­ing for a dra­matic show that could be a hit glob­ally, much like HBO’s pop­u­lar fan­tasy se­ries “Game of Thrones.” It is go­ing head-to-head with Net­flix Inc., Hulu and oth­ers to bid for top con­tent. This puts Ama­zon in un­charted ter­ri­tory, with higher pro­duc­tion costs ex­pected.

Ama­zon jus­ti­fies its spend­ing on pro­gram­ming as a way to draw new sign-ups to Prime, whose mem­bers buy more goods more of­ten from the world’s largest on­line re­tailer.

“Ama­zon Prime heads to Mid­dle Earth,” Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Jeff Be­zos said in a Twit­ter post.

Al­though “The Lord of the Rings” is the most fa­mous work to emerge from Tolkien’s pen, he wrote much more, in­clud­ing “The Hob­bit,” an ex­tended chil­dren’s story penned for his son Christo­pher, which Jack­son bloated into a movie tril­ogy pre­quel to “The Lord of the Rings” – and the denser “The Sil­mar­il­lion.”

The Ama­zon se­ries will delve into some of Tolkien’s work that the movies did not ex­plore.

“Ama­zon is com­mit­ted to pro­duc­ing su­per high qual­ity, rec­og­nized, branded en­ter­tain­ment,” Wed­bush Se­cu­ri­ties in­dus­try an­a­lyst Michael Pachter said. “That’s a de­par­ture from shows like ‘Trans­par­ent’ and ‘Catas­tro­phe.’

“By def­i­ni­tion,” he added, “this will be ex­pen­sive.”

Three movies made of Tolkien’s tril­ogy in the early 2000s were filmed in New Zealand by di­rec­tor Peter Jack­son.

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