Amazon’s Lord of the Rings Quits NZ for UK

Season two of Amazon Studios’ The Lord of the Rings series will shoot in the UK rather than NZ because of the government’s COVID-19 restrictions.

This will mark the first time a live-action LOTR production has been shot outside NZ since Peter Jackson’s original trilogy.

Hollywood trades report strict lockdown and border control measures have stopped the predominantly British cast from returning home to see family over the past two years and Amazon executives from visiting the mega-budget production to monitor progress.

The decision will be a huge blow to the NZ screen sector, with Amazon planning to hire a UK-based crew for S2.

Said Vernon Sanders, VP and Co-Head of TV, Amazon Studios: “We want to thank the people and the government of New Zealand for their hospitality and dedication and for providing The Lord of the Rings series with an incredible place to begin this epic journey.

“We are grateful to the New Zealand Film Commission, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, Tourism New Zealand, Auckland Unlimited, and others for their tremendous collaboration that supported the New Zealand film sector and the local economy during the production of Season One.”

S1 post-production will continue here until June 2022; it will premiere next September on Amazon Prime Video.

As Deadline Hollywood reports, the $US465 million first season qualified for a 20% tax rebate from New Zealand’s Screen Production Grant, which this year was increased to 25% ($US116 million). Amazon will not pursue the 5% increase, Albert Cheng, COO and co-head of TV for Amazon Studios, said.

“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.”

The government has since confirmed it will be pulling part of its funding.

“The international film sector is incredibly competitive and highly mobile,” Economic Development Minister Stuart Nash said. “We have no regrets about giving this production our best shot with government support.

“However we are disappointed for the local screen industry. Work will continue across government on ways to keep supporting the sector.”

Here’s the Amazon media release:

Amazon Studios’ The Lord of the Rings Original Series Sets Season Two in the U.K.

Pre-production expected to begin early 2022 

CULVER CITY, Calif. – Aug. 12, 2021 – Amazon Studios announced today that its untitled The Lord of the Rings original series will film Season Two in the United Kingdom (U.K.). 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.

The highly anticipated The Lord of the Rings series recently wrapped principal photography on Season One in New Zealand and is scheduled to premiere on Prime Video in more than 240 countries around the world on Friday, September 2, 2022.

“We want to thank the people and the government of New Zealand for their hospitality and dedication and for providing The Lord of the Rings series with an incredible place to begin this epic journey,” said Vernon Sanders, VP and Co-Head of TV, Amazon Studios. “We are grateful to the New Zealand Film Commission, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, Tourism New Zealand, Auckland Unlimited, and others for their tremendous collaboration that supported the New Zealand film sector and the local economy during the production of Season One.”

Season One post production will continue in New Zealand through June 2022, and pre-production on Season Two will begin concurrently in the U.K. after the first of the year.

“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,” said Albert Cheng, COO & Co-Head of TV, Amazon Studios.

The new epic drama brings to screens for the very first time J.R.R. Tolkien’s fabled Second Age of Middle-earth’s history. Beginning in a time of relative peace, thousands of years before the events of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The 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.

The series is led by showrunners and executive producers J.D. Payne & Patrick McKay. They are joined by executive producers Lindsey Weber, Callum Greene, J.A. Bayona, Belén Atienza, Justin Doble, Jason Cahill, Gennifer Hutchison, Bruce Richmond, and Sharon Tal Yguado. Wayne Che Yip is co-executive producer and directs along with J.A. Bayona and Charlotte Brändström. Christopher Newman is a producer and Ron Ames is a co-producer.

A world-renowned literary work, and winner of the International Fantasy Award and Prometheus Hall of Fame Award, The Lord of the Rings was named Amazon customers’ favorite book of the millennium in 1999 and Britain’s best-loved novel of all time in BBC’s The Big Read in 2003. The Lord of the Rings books has been translated into around 40 languages and has sold more than 150 million copies.

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5 Responses to “Amazon’s Lord of the Rings Quits NZ for UK”

  1. Stupid decision by Amazon. I bet the UK have been offering all sorts of goodies to Amazon 🤔

  2. No NZ reporting of this mentions COVID as a driver for change.

  3. British cast, a number of high profile Amazon shows already being produced in the UK, and they now own a movie studio, MGM. I can see the logic and in this COVID world logisically makes more sense with more diverse locations available to them. Game of Thrones proved that template. At the end of the day when season one is out there we will see if we have dodged a bullet.

  4. We are seeing signs of the world moving on from Covid, if we ‘stay the course’ we’ll be left behind.

  5. Good riddance, corporate welfare like the production grants are a Race to the Bottom
    https://taxcoop.org/en/fast-and-dangerous-race-to-the-bottom/

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