Amazon to adapt J.R.R. Tolkien’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ books into new fantasy television series

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Lord of the Rings: Return of the King
(New Line Cinema Image)

“The Lord of the Rings,” the celebrated fantasy book series by J.R.R. Tolkien that became a worldwide film phenomenon is now headed to the small screen, as Amazon announced Monday that it has acquired the rights for a multi-season adaptation on Prime Video.

Set in Middle Earth, the adaptation produced by Amazon Studios will explore new storylines preceding Tolkien’s “The Fellowship of the Ring.” The deal includes a potential additional spin-off series.

“’The Lord of the Rings’ is a cultural phenomenon that has captured the imagination of generations of fans through literature and the big screen,” Sharon Tal Yguado, head of Scripted Series for Amazon Studios, said in a statement. “We are honored to be working with the Tolkien Estate and Trust, HarperCollins and New Line on this exciting collaboration for television and are thrilled to be taking ‘The Lord of the Rings’ fans on a new epic journey in Middle Earth.”

Tolkien’s book series was named Amazon customers’ favorite book of the millennium in 1999. Director Peter Jackson’s theatrical adaptations included “The Fellowship of the Ring” (2001); “The Two Towers” (2002); and “The Return of the King” (2003). The films grossed nearly $6 billion worldwide and won a combined 17 Academy Awards, including Best Picture for “King.”

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos showed his geeky love for the series and the news in a tweet Monday.

The acquisition is seen as a major get for the streaming service, as Amazon competes with Netflix, Hulu and now Apple to find a series to rival HBO’s powerhouse “Game of Thrones” fantasy series.

“We are delighted that Amazon, with its longstanding commitment to literature, is the home of the first-ever multi-season television series for ‘The Lord of the Rings,’” said Matt Galsor, a representative for the Tolkien Estate and Trust and HarperCollins. “Sharon and the team at Amazon Studios have exceptional ideas to bring to the screen previously unexplored stories based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s original writings.”

Deadline reported that the Tolkien estate approached Amazon, Netflix and HBO while shopping the project and sought an upfront rights payment in the $200 – $250 million range. The website added that that comes before costs for development, talent and production and that “a fantasy series of that magnitude is likely to cost $100 – $150 million a season.

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