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Guess what? Amazon Studios is in pre-production for the first season of the Lord of the Rings TV series. Filming is gearing up to start in the coming months. The studio hasn't confirmed much up to this point, so it was a pleasant surprise to see a press release announcing a return to New Zealand for the streaming series.
It was hoped but not confirmed prior to this point that Amazon's Lord of the Rings series would go back to New Zealand, where Peter Jackson famously filmed his Lord of the Rings movies.
So this is coming home. (There and back again!)
The deal for Amazon's Lord of the Rings series is said to include five seasons and a possible spinoff. The story will cover The Second Age of author J.R.R. Tolkien's work, which makes it a prequel before The Third Age covered in Peter Jackson's The Hobbit and LOTR movies.
Amazon boss Jeff Bezos wants his own Game of Thrones, and that's what this Lord of the Rings series is meant to be. He even has a tag-team of shorunners, like GOT, in J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay. Payne and McKay issued a statement on the decision to film in New Zealand:
As we searched for the location in which we could bring to life the primordial beauty of the Second Age of Middle-earth, we knew we needed to find somewhere majestic, with pristine coasts, forests, and mountains, that also is a home to world-class sets, studios, and highly skilled and experienced craftspeople and other staff. And we’re happy that we are now able to officially confirm New Zealand as our home for our series based on stories from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. We are grateful to the people and the government of New Zealand and especially Auckland for supporting us during this pre-production phase. The abundant measure of Kiwi hospitality with which they have welcomed us has already made us feel right at home, and we are looking forward to deepening our partnership in the years to come.
The show's official Twitter account announced the New Zealand return in its own way:
The Lord of the Rings movies were filmed all over Peter Jackson's native New Zealand. There were more than 150 locations used for the trilogy, in addition to soundstages around his home city of Wellington and Queenstown. No one has announced anything about working with Weta Workshop -- which became world-famous when used to make the LOTR movies -- but I would imagine that's in the cards.
Last we heard, it was up to Peter Jackson to decide what kind of involvement he might want in the series. Since Amazon's deal brought in Warner Bros./New Line, THR reported that the series could theoretically use footage from Jackson's movies.
Basing filming in Auckland keeps a New Zealand connection while maybe establishing a separate space from Peter Jackson's universe in Wellington. Auckland is on the North Island, which is also where The Shire's Hobbiton set was located for the Hobbit and LOTR movies.
What will be the official title of the show? If you read the statement above, the showrunners are careful with the phrasing -- "our series based on stories from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings" as opposed to "The Lord of the Rings on Prime" as it's called on social media. I'm curious to see what they title the series, how they describe Season 1, and more details about the show in general. A Tolkien expert has told fans a bit, including that he heard the first season would have 20 episodes, but nothing like that has been announced yet by Amazon.