‘It’s a shame’: Amazon’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ series to relocate to the UK

A first look image from Amazon's 'Lord of the Rings' series.

New Zealand Film Commission (NZFC) CEO David Strong has expressed regret that Amazon Studios’ untitled The Lord of the Rings series will not return to the country to film season two, but remains confident of attracting other international productions.

Amazon announced today that it would relocate filming on the project to the UK as part of a strategy to expand its production footprint and invest in studio space there.

Post-production on season one will continue in NZ through to June 2022, and pre-production on season two will begin concurrently in the UK after January 1.

Strong said while the production would have been welcomed back for season two, its departure opened the door wider to others to come in.

“We’re an easy country to do business in and New Zealanders have a reputation for being highly skilled, innovative and creative,” he said.

“In a year of COVID, they brought in around $NZ650million and employed nearly 2000 New Zealanders.

“It’s a shame and I feel for everyone who has put their hearts into this production.

“Season two was expected to begin later in 2022, so our role now is to work hard to keep the Kiwi screen sector employed.

“Other internationals have interest in shooting here, and is an acknowledgement of our strengths.”

Amazon’s drama details 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.

Showrunners and executive producers J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay 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 Bayona and Charlotte Brändström. Christopher Newman is a producer and Ron Ames is a co-producer.

The production qualified for a 20 per cent tax rebate from New Zealand’s Screen Production Grant, which had the option of a 5 per cent uplift for productions that d offer significant economic benefits to the country.

Amazon COO and co-head of TV Albert Cheng said the studio would not “actively pursue” the uplift and would remain in close consultation with its partners about the next steps.

Amazon VP and co-head of TV Vernon Sanders thanked the New Zealand government for providing the series with an “incredible place” to begin its 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,” he said.

Season one will premiere on Prime Video on Friday, September 2, 2022.