Amazon's 'Lord of the Rings' Series Moves From New Zealand to the U.K.


Amazon's 'Lord of the Rings' Series Moves From New Zealand to the U.K.

Amazon has made the shocking decision to move the production of their untitled “Lord of the Rings” series from New Zealand to the U.K. The highly anticipated prequel is also one of the most expensive television series ever, with Amazon spending a whopping $465 million on the first season alone.

“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, vice president and co-head of TV for 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 move to the U.K. means that for the first time in over 20 years, a modern adaptation of Tolkien’s work won’t be filmed in New Zealand. Peter Jackson filmed the original Lord of the Rings trilogy filmed in his native country, as well as The Hobbit trilogy. During this time, New Zealand’s film industry grew and expanded, with post-production and digital effects company Weta Digital and props maker Weta Workshop winning multiple Oscars. The country also saw a massive influx of tourism money thanks to fans from across the globe flocking to the island nation. With its sweeping vistas and stunning geography, New Zealand is practically its own character in the sprawling fantasy series.

The move comes as Amazon continues to shift more of its series to the U.K. They are currently filming season two of Good Omens and season one of Neil Gaiman’s Anansi Boys in the U.K., as well as an upcoming adaptation of Naomi Alderman’s novel “The Power”. Post-production of season one of the LOTR series will continue in New Zealand as pre-production of season 2 commences in the U.K. New Zealand also lost Amazon’s series The Wilds, which moved to Australia to film their second season.

In the meantime, New Zealand is still reeling from losing a massive employer and the financial gains of hosting the most expensive series ever. David Strong, CEO of the New Zealand Film Commission, said “It’s a shame and I feel for everyone who has put their hearts into this production. Season two was expected to begin later in 2022, so our role now is to work hard to keep the Kiwi screen sector employed.”

New Zealand is already a favorable shooting location, not only for its gorgeous geography but for a massive tax credit offers a 20% rebate on large-scale productions. Amazon even negotiated an additional 5% uplift in the rebate, which they now say they won’t pursue. The U.K. offers its own tax rebate at 25%. An Amazon spokesperson described the move as “align[ing] with the studio’s strategy of expanding its production footprint and investing in studio space across the U.K., with many of Amazon Studios’ tentpole series and films already calling the U.K. home.”

Some blame the politicians and agencies in charge of negotiating with Amazon. Others blame New Zealand’s strict border closures, which has kept the country safe from the pandemic but has hampered some productions. At the end of the day, Amazon is going to do what they want to do, which it to establish a production hub in the U.K. But they will lose so much of the magic that New Zealand gave the franchise, in addition to a thriving film community that is intimately familiar with Tolkien’s work.

The erstwhile Frodo Baggins himself, Elijah Wood, summed up our feelings perfectly with a single facepalm emoji:

🤦🏻‍♂️ https://t.co/rq6OES6zde

— Elijah Wood (@elijahwood) August 12, 2021

(via Variety, image: Amazon Studios)

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