August 13 (Al Jazeera) – Fans of Middle-earth may not be too miffed about where Amazon Studios shoots its yet-to-be-titled The Lord of the Rings television series. It is a different story for those whose paycheques are tied to bringing JRR Tolkien’s books to life on the big screen.
On Friday, Amazon Studios announced that it will film Season Two of its Rings series in the United Kingdom rather than New Zealand, where shooting on Season One recently wrapped.
“The shift from New Zealand to the U.K. aligns with the studio’s strategy of expanding its production footprint and investing in studio space across the U.K., with many of Amazon Studios’ tentpole series and films already calling the U.K. home,” Amazon Studios said in a statement.
The announcement marks the first time a production based on the epic-fantasy books will not be filmed in New Zealand, where Oscar-winning director Peter Jackson shot his The Lord of the Rings and Hobbit film trilogies.
The move is a blow to New Zealand’s film industry. According to government figures, Amazon is spending at least $465m on Season One – making it one of the most expensive productions in history. The project employs 1,200 people in New Zealand directly and a further 700 indirectly.
“Amazon Studios advised that post-production work on Season One will continue in New Zealand till June 2022,” Economic Development Minister Stuart Nash said in a statement reported by Reuters news agency.
Nash said an extra 5 percent incentive offered by New Zealand’s Screen Production Grant as well as a 20 percent grant the production already qualifies for would be withdrawn.
“As we look to relocate the production to the U.K., we do not intend to actively pursue the Season One MoU five percent financial uplift with the New Zealand government or preserve the terms around that agreement, however we respectfully defer to our partners and will remain in close consultation with them around next steps,” Albert Cheng, COO and co-head of TV, Amazon Studios said in the company press release.
Amazon said its series will take place on Middle-Earth during the Second Age, which is thousands of years before the events of Tolkien’s The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings books.
“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,” said Amazon.
The series is slated to premiere on Amazon Prime Video in more than 240 countries and territories worldwide on September 2, 2022.