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Amazon Boss Justifies ‘Lord of the Rings’ $465 Million Budget: ‘Huge World-Building’ Required

Amazon is "pretty confident" the required audience will show up to make the streamer's $465 million investment worth it.

THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RETURN OF THE KING, Elijah Wood, 2003, (c) New Line/courtesy Everett Collection

“The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King”

New Line Cinema/Courtesy Everett Collection

Amazon Studios is making history with its upcoming “Lord of the Rings” television series, the first season of which will be the most expensive season of television ever produced with its massive $465 million budget. Amazon Studios chief Jennifer Salke recently participated in an executive roundtable for The Hollywood Reporter, where she was asked to justify the “Rings” series’ gargantuan price tag. Salke said the company is “pretty confident” the show will draw the required viewership to make the $465 million budget money worth spent.

“The market is crazy, as you saw with the Knives Out deal. [Netflix paid $469 million for two sequels.],” Salke said. “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.”

Salke continued, “But it is a crazy world and various people on this Zoom, mostly Bela and me, have been in bidding situations where it starts to go incredibly high. There’s a lot of wooing and we have to make decisions on where we want to stretch and where we want to draw the line. As for how many people need to watch ‘Lord of the Rings?’ A lot. (Laughs.) A giant, global audience needs to show up to it as appointment television, and we are pretty confident that that will happen.”

Early reports in 2018 pegged at least two seasons of “Lord of the Rings” costing Amazon in the $500 million range, which is a bargain compared to the $465 million price tag for just one season. As expected, Amazon is viewing the debut season of its “Rings” series to be the start of an entire Middle Earth franchise on the streaming platform, thus Salke believes the massive investment is needed upfront to set up the franchise for future success.

To put the $465 million price tag into perspective, note that Peter Jackson spent around $280 million to make the original “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. The follow-up “Hobbit” trilogy cost a reported $623 million. The final season of HBO’s “Game of Thrones” cost approximately $15 million an episode, bringing the total season’s budget to an estimated $90 million for six episodes.

Amazon has not yet revealed the episode count for its “Rings” series’ first season, although it’s confirmed there will be at least six episodes. J.A. Boyona is helming the first two episodes of the series, while Wayne Che Yip is directing four episodes. The show is in production and does not have a confirmed release date.

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