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Amazon Bets Big on 'Lord of the Rings' Prequel TV Series

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On Monday, e-commerce giant Amazon (AMZN - Free Report) announced that it has acquired global television rights to The Lord of the Rings (LOTR), and has big plans to bring the beloved franchise set in Middle Earth to the small screen.

According to Deadline, Amazon apparently paid close to $250 million, but that does not include any production costs, which will likely be enormous if you consider what HBO has to shell out for its hit fantasy series, Game of Thrones. No financial details about the deal were officially disclosed.

Together with the Tolkien Estate and Trust, HarperCollins, and New Line Cinema, Amazon Studios is set to produce a LOTR television series based on new storylines and one that takes place before J.R.R. Tolkien’s book The Fellowship of the Ring. The company’s Amazon Prime streaming service has given the show a multi-season commitment, with the potential for spinoff series.

The Lord of the Rings is a cultural phenomenon that has captured the imagination of generations of fans through literature and the big screen,” said Sharon Tal Yguado, Head of Scripted Series, Amazon Studios. “We are honored to be working with the Tolkien Estate and Trust, HarperCollins and New Line on this exciting collaboration for television and are thrilled to be taking The Lord of the Rings fans on a new epic journey in Middle Earth.”

Deadline also notes that Amazon, HBO, and streaming giant Netflix (NFLX - Free Report) were all approached by the Tolkien estate about the new LOTR show.

This deal is also allowed Amazon to get in the television franchise game, and step up its competitive offerings. Even though Game of Thrones has begun filming its last season, HBO already has plans for multiple spin-off seasons of the world of Westeros. Netflix, too, has a very successful partnership with Disney’s (DIS - Free Report) Marvel franchise, with shows like Daredevil and Luke Cage huge hits for the platform.

A LOTR show could prove very fruitful for Amazon. The original trilogy grossed over $2.9 billion worldwide, and it truly was a global phenomenon. The final film, The Return of the King, eventually won 11 Oscars, sweeping all categories for which it was nominated; the first two con win six Oscars combined as well.

But all of this monetary and awards season potential carries a ton of risk, like all adaptations do. Amazon should be mindful of LOTR’s vehemently devoted fanbase, and the fact that Middle Earth has already been extensively explored on screen in these first three films and the Hobbit trilogy.

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