Amazon’s Lord of the Rings show needs “a giant, global audience” to work

Amazon made waves a couple years back when it acquired the rights to make a TV show based on The Lord of the Rings for a staggering sum of money. Since then, it’s come out that the first season alone will cost $465 million to make. For reference, Peter Jackson’s original trilogy cost $281 million in total, and those movies are considered classics. Who knows if Amazon’s show will be any good?

But in order to make back their investment, this new show has to be good. It has to be so good that a global worldwide audience watches it. Otherwise it won’t be worth the money.

That’s basically the thinking of Amazon Studios head Jennifer Salke, who recently participated in a roundtable discussion with The Hollywood Reporter. “This is a full season of a huge world-building show,” she said. “The number is a sexy headline or a crazy headline that’s fun to click on, but that is really building the infrastructure of what will sustain the whole series.”

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.

I’m glad that she’s confident. Should she be? I dunno. The Lord of the Rings is a well-known brand, but we have no idea if this show will be any good.

In the wake of the success of Game of Thrones, studios are chasing not only the next big fantasy property but also the next big television phenomenon — Amazon has two hopefuls in development: The Lord of the Rings and The Wheel of Time. But Game of Thrones built up an audience slowly over the years, whereas Amazon seems to want these shows to be appointment viewing right out of the gate. I fear this might be an unrealistic goal, and that after the new shows fail to pull in miracle numbers we see a slackening of the fantasy renaissance that’s taken Hollywood by storm over the past few years, with shows like The Witcher and Shadow and Bone coming out at a steady clip.

Or The Lord of the Rings series will be everything Amazon wants it to be and we go onward and upward from there. We’ll have to wait and see.

Image: Adrian Freyermuth

Swedish-French director Charlotte Brändström joins Amazon’s Lord of the Rings show

In the meantime, production on the show is moving ahead. Amazon just announced that director Charlotte Brändström is coming aboard the creative team, filling out a directing roster that also includes JA Bayona and Wayne Che Yip.

“I’m very excited to be guided through Middle-earth by [executive producers executive producers J.D. Payne & Patrick McKay’s] vision and immerse myself in the iconic world of J.R.R. Tolkien,” Brändström said in a statement. “It’s a great privilege to be in New Zealand to work with Amazon Studios’ outstanding ensemble of creative talents. There are countless things still to see in Middle-earth, and great works to do.”

We have neither a title nor a release date for The Lord of the Rings show yet, but expect it sometime in 2022. And just so you know, the show is not adapting The Lord of the Rings. It’s set during the Second Age of Middle-earth, a time that’s been little explored on either the big or small screens.

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