Amazon is moving its multi-million dollar Lord Of The Rings series from New Zealand to the UK, as part of plans to expand its production footprint in the country.
The first season of the as-yet untitled series, which is based on JRR Tolkien’s books The Hobbit and Lord Of The Rings, will complete post production in New Zealand as the second season starts pre-production in the UK from January.
The show’s set will be relocated and Amazon is currently exploring and booking UK production space to house the show.
The $23m decision
The move is an about-turn for Amazon, which chose to produce the show in New Zealand over Scotland in 2019.
Its first season is set to debut on the Amazon Prime streamer worldwide on 22 September 2022 and is likely to become the most expensive TV production ever, with the first run costing $465m alone. Four more seasons are planned.
Amazon remains in line for a substantial tax rebate of 20% from New Zealand’s Screen Production Grant, but it will lose out on a further 5%, which it had been due after the rebate limit was raised in April. That means it will receive $93m, $23m less than the $116m it had been due.
However, the production will likely now be applicable for the UK’s own tax rebate system, which provides 25% on qualifying spend.
Albert Cheng, COO & co-head of TV at Amazon Studios, confirmed the retailer did “not intend to actively pursue” the additional uplift with the New Zealand government “or preserve the terms around that agreement.”
The move breaks the tie between Lord Of The Rings and New Zealand, where the three-part movie series was filmed and spin-off The Hobbit.
However, it also means that the TV series’ cast – many of whom are British – will be closer to their homes, following extended periods away because of the pandemic lockdowns and New Zealand’s tight border restrictions stopping family visits.
New Zealand’s economic development minister Stuart Nash admitted his disappointment at the decision. “I am enormously proud of the New Zealand screen sector. The Amazon Studios’ decision in no way reflects the capabilities of our local film industry or the talents of the people who work in it.”
For the UK, the shift is a major boon. Culture secretary Oliver Dowden told the BBC: “Thousands of high quality jobs all across the UK will be created and supported by The Lord Of The Rings television series so this is very exciting news.”
The drama epic will pick up thousands of years before the events of Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings books, following both familiar and new characters as they confront the long-feared re-emergence of evil to Middle-earth.
The series is led by showrunners and executive producers JD Payne and Patrick McKay.