Amazon has bet big on its upcoming series rooted in The Lord of the Rings, so much so that its $465 million budget for Season 1 will make it the most expensive series ever. The staggering price tag may seem like an insane number to some - okay, to many, many people - but Amazon Studios' head honcho Jennifer Salke recently explained why the budget is so dang high.
Jennifer Salke was one of many women recently interviewed by THR about the TV and film industries and was asked about the massive costs revealed for The Lord of the Rings. Salke spoke about how part of the mega-budget is a world-building effort, while another part of it a symptom of the current content-buying market in Hollywood.
The market is crazy, as you saw with the Knives Out deal. 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 that is really building the infrastructure of what will sustain the whole series. 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.
The Lord Of The Rings' Season 1 price tag isn't just an impulsive expenditure; it's an investment for the future. Jennifer Salke indicated the $465 million budget is justified in that it cements the series' high value from the ground up, which is pretty necessary for a show expanding one of the most popular fantasy franchises. Sure, there's a lot of money being spent early on, but if it's paying for giant sets, locations, costumes and effects that will be used for years on end if the show is successful, then that budget looks a lot less daunting and ridiculous. Especially if this initial series opens the door for spinoffs and more, there's no telling how much money Amazon could end up spending (and earning) when all is said and done.
Of course, The Lord Of The Rings series needs quite a few viewers to justify that cost for multiple seasons, much less just the one so far. Jennifer Salke didn't give a metric beyond bemusedly saying "a lot" would need to watch, but one can only imagine the challenge of unifying a truly global audience with any kind of "appointment television" when Netflix's binge-all attitude has become the norm. That said, The Lord Of The Rings franchise has done well at the box office in years past, so it's as good a candidate as any to convince viewers to tune in on a weekly basis, and it'll be interesting to see how it stacks up against Disney+'s Star Wars and MCU content.
There's definitely a solid number of folks around the world who still care about The Lord Of The Rings and may very well tune in week to week for this prequel series set thousands of years before the events of the movies. And really, I think could be in the world's best interest to root for its success, because imagine how many other insanely budgeted shows we could get next if it succeeds?
The Lord of the Rings series is set to arrive on Amazon Prime Video sometime before the end of 2021, and it will definitely be a fun time just to see how those millions were spent. Fans may be best served in the meantime to revisit the movies and check out our definitive ranking of all the movies here.