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Amazon Exec Jennifer Salke Explained Why “Lord of the Rings” Series Cost Half of a Billion

Half a billion dollars for a season’s worth of a single television show?  Well, not quite—it’s more  like $465 million, give or take a few guilders. That’s how much Amazon Studios is budgeting to bring The Lord of the Rings to the planet’s 1.6 billion TV sets, a guesstimate that does not include an unknown number of tubes in Middle-earth and other unwired realms. 

The gargantuan price tag is justified, Amazon Studio head Jennifer Salke told industry reporters this week, because of the nature of the script and the need to craft a suitable environment for the production. Salke was quoted in the Indiewire as saying: “This is a full season of a huge world-building show. The number is a sexy headline or a crazy headline that’s fun to click on, but [the budget] is really building the infrastructure of what will sustain the whole series.”

As a point of comparison, Salke cited the deal that saw Netflix shell out $469 million for two Knives Out sequels. She is nonetheless confident that Amazon’s projected return on investment will justify the expenditure,  declaring she is “pretty confident”  that a “giant, global audience” will show up for the streaming of the Rings.”  Plus, according to Stuff, the government of New Zealand has reportedly committed a subsidy of $160 million NZD to the project—that’s $115 million in US currency.

Amazon has not yet confirmed when viewers will be able to hobnob with the Hobbits, but the show is already in production. At least six episodes will be presented, two directed by J. A. Boyona and four by Wayne Che Yip.  No word from the Harvard Lampoon as to whether their Bored of the Rings parody is included in the deal.

Edward Moran
Edward Moran
Edward Moran began his journalistic career many decades ago as a theater and cinema reviewer for Show Business and the New York Theater Review. More recently he contributed film reviews to and Movie Sleuth. His writings have appeared in publications as diverse as the Times Literary Supplement, Publishers Weekly, the Paris Review, and the Massachusetts Review. Moran also edited a memoir by Oscar-nominated documentary filmmaker Christine Choy. He served as literary advisor to her film Hyam Plutzik: American Poet, which was the keynote film in the American Perspectives series at the 2007 Zebra Poetry Film Festival in Berlin.


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