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Middle Earth is on the move.
Amazon Studios is packing up The Lord of the Rings and moving its production of the mega-budget fantasy series from New Zealand to the United Kingdom for season two.
The decision represents a dramatic location swap that takes the event series out of the country that was famously used for Peter Jackson’s LOTR and The Hobbit trilogies and into the land that originally inspired saga author J.R.R. Tolkien. It’s also a major shift given that Amazon has invested heavily in sets and facilities in New Zealand to help pull off the show’s debut season, which recently wrapped filming at an estimated price of $465 million.
The show’s steep cost was a key factor in the decision, with sources saying that the U.K. will be a more economical choice moving forward. Amazon has already been heavily investing in studio space in the U.K. and is shooting many other titles there (such as Good Omens, Anansi Boys, Citadel, The Power and The Rig).
Another factor was that the country has a very strict pandemic lockdown policy. Insiders credit the policy with helping keep the production safe during unprecedented times, but it’s also resulted in certain logistical challenges — especially given that roughly half the cast is from the U.K. For instance, any time a member of the cast or crew left the country, they would have to quarantine for 14 days upon returning to New Zealand and there were limits as to how many people could come and go from the production at any given time.
That said, season one postproduction will continue in New Zealand through June 2022, and preproduction on season two will begin concurrently in the U.K. after the first of the year.
“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.”
The studio will still receive a 20 percent tax credit from New Zealand for its first season (totaling $114 million) but is foregoing an additional 5 percent that it could have received had the production stuck around.
“As we look to relocate the production to the U.K., 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.
Here’s the show’s official description: The Lord of the Rings “brings to screens for the very first time the heroic legends of the fabled Second Age of Middle-earth’s history. This epic drama is set thousands of years before the events of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and will take viewers back to an era in which great powers were forged, kingdoms rose to glory and fell to ruin, unlikely heroes were tested, hope hung by the finest of threads, and the greatest villain that ever flowed from Tolkien’s pen threatened to cover all the world in darkness. 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 reemergence of evil to Middle-earth. From the darkest depths of the Misty Mountains, to the majestic forests of the elf-capital of Lindon, to the breathtaking island kingdom of Númenor, to the furthest reaches of the map, these kingdoms and characters will carve out legacies that live on long after they are gone.”
The ensemble cast includes 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.
The debut season of LOTR will premiere Friday, Sept. 2, 2022, on Prime Video and it will air in 240 territories around the world.
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