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Amazon’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ Flexes Its Power Ahead of Fantasy-Crowded 2022

The Hollywood Reporter
The Hollywood Reporter
 2022-01-26
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There were no elves, dwarfs or hobbits shown — not even a few crumbs of lembas bread.

And yet, Amazon ’s teaser video Jan. 19 revealing the mere title of its upcoming The Lord of the Rings TV series managed to rack up an estimated social reach of 1 billion impressions and trended in markets worldwide on Twitter and YouTube, the studio claims.

“To already see this much enthusiasm for the series is incredible and gets us even more excited for what we’ll be sharing with fans in the near future,” says Ukonwa Ojo, global CMO of Prime Video and Amazon Studios.

The show’s title, The Rings of Power , revealed to fans that the secretive prequel series would focus on the forging of the Dark Lord Sauron’s instruments of control — including the uber-powerful One Ring — which caused so much trouble for Frodo Baggins and friends in Peter Jackson’s Oscar-winning trilogy of films that grossed $2.97 billion.

But to the industry, the impact made by the project’s mere name seemed to confirm what prior news tidbits from Amazon’s massive multiseason gamble had only hinted at: That LOTR could be, indeed, the one fantasy show to rule them all — even as it will be released during a year shaping up to be the most crowded ever in the fantasy genre space.

Of course, it’s Game of Thrones that’s to credit/blame for the genre’s surge (and there’s some irony to the fact that author George R.R. Martin wrote his A Song of Ice and Fire books to be a grounded, R-rated response to J.R.R. Tolkien, and then Amazon revived Tolkien in reaction to HBO’s success with GoT ).

The GoT brand returns this year as well, with HBO Max’s high-stakes prequel series House of the Dragon , which will likely debut in the latter half of the year. Given that LOTR arrives Sept. 2, there’s a possibility of witnessing a real-time GoT vs. LOTR battle for genre dominance that would surely rival any tussle at Pelennor Fields.

Also wading into the space this year is Netflix’s The Witcher prequel, Blood Origin (so many prequels!); the long-awaited Stranger Things season four; the Neil Gaiman adaptation The Sandman ; Disney+’s Willow reboot; Starz’s Outlander season six; HBO’s His Dark Materials season three; AMC’s Interview With the Vampire debut; and Amazon’s own The Wheel of Time returns this year or next.

Speaking of: Wheel of Time was considered Amazon’s pre- LOTR toe-dip into fantasy. While the show didn’t generate as much media buzz, it racked up 4 billion total viewing minutes (a success on par with Disney’s Marvel shows), per Nielsen.

With Amazon investing an eye-watering $465 million in LOTR ’s first season alone, the bar for its success is much higher — likely more than is possible for any series to clear in its first couple of seasons. Still, as early social metrics attest, fans are eager to venture back to Middle-earth, and the question has shifted to whether The Rings of Power will entice them to stay.

This story first appeared in the Jan. 26 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.

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