It's official: Amazon Studios is going to make a Lord of the Rings TV series.
The retail giant and streaming outlet announced Monday that it has acquired global television rights to the Lord of the Rings franchise, based on the best-selling novels by J.R.R. Tolkien. Amazon has handed out a multiple-season commitment. The LOTR TV series will be produced in-house at Amazon Studios alongside the Tolkien Estate and Trust, publisher HarperCollins and Warner Bros. Entertainment's New Line Cinema. A writer has not yet been attached.
Amazon's LOTR series will be set in Middle-earth and explore new storylines preceding Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring. The deal includes a potential additional spinoff 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,” said Sharon Tal Yguado, Amazon's new head of scripted. “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.”
The news comes 10 days after word leaked that Amazon Studios was exploring a potential TV series based on the fantasy novels and subsequent feature film franchise, which was produced by New Line. The LOTR trilogy was named Amazon customers' favorite book of the millennium in 1999.
The news comes four months after Warner Bros. and the Tolkien estate settled an $80 million lawsuit after a five-year battle. That happened after Warners offshoot New Line Cinema and the Tolkien estate waged a courtroom battle over profit participation from the film franchise that consisted of The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), The Two Towers (2002) and The Return of the King (2003), as well as 2013 prequel The Hobbit. The property is a multibillion-dollar worldwide franchise.
"We are delighted that Amazon, with its long-standing commitment to literature, is the home of the first-ever multiseason 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.”
That Amazon Studios has emerged as a home for the LOTR TV series comes as little surprise given the genre-focused programming push Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has mandated. The retail giant and streaming platform has been on the hot seat for its lack of a breakthrough hit, with Tal Yguado initially brought in earlier this year to oversee the development of genre fare.
In anticipation of the push, Amazon Studios has been in the midst of canceling a wave of programming including Z: The Beginning of Everything and The Last Tycoon. Following sexual harassment allegations, Amazon Studios head Roy Price resigned from the company last month. His head of drama and comedy Joe Lewis was pushed out as he faced conflict-of-interest allegations, among others. Amazon Studios COO Albert Cheng has taken over for Price on an interim basis, with Tal Yguado now overseeing drama and comedy and charged with finding a Game of Thrones-level franchise for Amazon Studios.
The news comes as multiple outlets have been looking for a large-scale hit a la HBO's Thrones as the mandate to cut through a cluttered landscape of more than 500 scripted originals continues to grow. On that side, Disney announced last week that it is developing a live-action Star Wars TV series for its upcoming SVOD platform as other outlets look to compete with streaming giant Netflix.