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Amazon's upcoming Lord of the Rings television series is already costing way more than all the gold Smaug has hoarded in his lair — and far more than a few other fan favorites dragons, to boot.
According to New Zealand news publication Stuff, the first season of the upcoming television show will cost almost NZ$650 dollars (roughly $465 million US dollars) to produce. The figure was obtained as part of the New Zealand government’s Official Information Act, with the documents also confirming that the studio plans to shoot up to five seasons of the series there as well.
"What I can tell you is Amazon is going to spend about NZ$650 million in season one alone," New Zealand Minister for Economic Development and Tourism Stuart Nash told Morning Report, confirming the figure though he was unable to disclose any details as to how the money would be spent. "This is fantastic, it really is."
This new figure is well above previously estimated costs for the fantasy show which had initially been thought to have a $500 million price tag for multiple seasons. In comparison, the first season of HBO's adaptation of George R. R. Martin's Game of Thrones cost $100 million to produce per season, with each episode of its final season costing almost $15 million to make. Similarly, Peter Jackson's original Lord of the Rings trilogy cost $280 million, with the three Hobbit films reportedly coming in at $623 million total.
However, it is worth noting that while this is the initial cost for the show, it will likely go down in subsequent seasons as much of this money will probably be spent towards building up the world of Middle-earth and all the people and creatures found within it. The sets, costumes, locations and props will certainly be reused multiple times as the series continues. Also, Amazon's spending will get them a tax rebate of NZ$160 million ($114 million U.S.), which will no doubt go towards future seasons.
The series — which is currently in production — has already been renewed for a second season. It will take place before both the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, and will instead explore the Second Age of Middle-earth's history, drawing on author J.R.R. Tolkien's other writings as well.
Per the official description of the series, it will explore an "era in which great powers were forged, kingdoms rose to glory and fell to ruin, unlikely heroes were tested, hope hung by the finest of threads, and the greatest villain that ever flowed from Tolkien's pen threatened to cover all the world in darkness. Beginning in a time of relative peace, the series follows an ensemble cast of characters, both familiar and new, as they confront the long-feared re-emergence of evil to Middle-earth. From the darkest depths of the Misty Mountains, to the majestic forests of the elf-capital of Lindon, to the breathtaking island kingdom of Númenor, to the furthest reaches of the map, these kingdoms and characters will carve out legacies that live on long after they are gone."
J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay (Flash Gordon) serve as the showrunners on the series. The cast includes Robert Aramayo (Game of Thrones), Owain Arthur (Kingdom), Markella Kavenagh (The Gloaming), Nazanin Boniadi (Counterpart), Morfydd Clark (His Dark Materials), and Joseph Mawle (Game of Thrones), Tom Budge (The Pacific), Ismael Cruz Cordova (The Catch), among others.
No release date has been set for the series, but when it does arrive, it promises to be one of the most ambitious fantasy epic put to screen — TV or otherwise.