The first season of Amazon’s The Lord of the Rings TV show is reported to cost the retail giant a frankly difficult to imagine $465 million to produce. Just to save you from having to re-read that, this price tag is for just one season, and that there is not a missing decimal in the above number. “This will be the largest television series ever made,” New Zealand’s Minister for Economic Development and Tourism said.
But this honor was already something of a known quantity, after Amazon spent $250 million to secure the rights to the franchise in 2017, kicking off a round of stories declaring the not-yet-produced show “the most expensive” television production in history, with the big B number circulating its rumored five-season run. This is perhaps fitting, since another episodic Lord of the Rings-adjacent production — Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit trilogy — currently holds the record for the most expensive movie production in history, at some $623 million (after tax credits).
To make a more lembas to lembas comparison, here are some other Big Numbers:
- The final and most expensive season of that other fantasy TV series, Game of Thrones, cost just $90 million, or $15 million per episode.
- Disney spent “around 100 million” on the first season of The Mandalorian.
- Disney’s Marvel series are reported to cost as much as $25 million per episode which, considering there are nine episodes of WandaVision, would max out at $225 million. Chump change!
- Adjusted for inflation, it cost Kevin Costner roughly $300 million in 1995 to build an entire island off the coast of Hawaii for Waterworld.
- The US government plans to spend $451 million in 2021 on lunar exploration, or about one The Lord of the Rings season.
Of course, being a new show and all, there are some up-front costs to be expected in this first season, like sets and costumes, which may take some of the sting out of future seasons. But that’s really only a concern if you’re thinking as a not-billionaire. With a net worth of $193 billion, Amazon’s (outgoing) CEO Jeff Bezos can personally ensure the series goes there and back again (and again and again and again) for some 400 seasons before things start to get a little tight.