Amazon Studios announced on Friday that it will shoot the second season of its original series, based on the books by JRR Tolkien, in Britain.
New Zealand has long been associated with the “Lord of the Rings”. This move to Britain is a blow to the country’s small but vibrant screen industry.
“New Zealand’s move to the UK aligns with the studio’s strategy of expanding its production footprint and investing in studio space across the UK, with numerous series and films. from Amazon Studios who are already calling the UK, “the company said in a statement. declaration.
The production is one of the most expensive in history, with Amazon spending at least $ 465 million on the first season, which just finished filming in New Zealand, according to government figures.
The series directly employed 1,200 people in New Zealand and another 700 indirectly, according to the figures.
“It’s a shock for everyone,” said Denise Roche, director of Equity NZ, a union representing performers. “I really feel for all the small businesses, the technicians who have invested in this for the future. No one had a clue.
Roche said people felt disappointed with Amazon, although she added that the industry was resilient.
Amazon has stated that the still-untitled series takes place in Middle-earth during the Second Age, thousands of years before the events described in Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings” books and subsequent films. directed by Peter Jackson.
Filming began last year but was delayed due to the coronavirus. Post-production for the first season will continue in New Zealand through June before the show premieres on Prime Video in September of next year.
The move to Britain comes just four months after Amazon signed a deal with the New Zealand government to get an additional 5% discount on top of the 20% – or $ 92 million – it was already demanding from the New Zealand taxpayers under a screen production subsidy.
Many places around the world compete for productions by offering similar and generous discounts.
At the time of the deal, New Zealand Economic Development Minister Stuart Nash said the production would bring economic and tourism benefits to the country for years to come and create “a lasting legacy for our screen industry. “.
Nash said on Friday that the government only found out a day earlier that Amazon was leaving and was disappointed with the decision. He said the government was withdrawing the offer of the additional 5%.
Amazon said it no longer intends to continue collecting the extra money. But he will always walk away with at least $ 92 million from New Zealand taxpayers.
“The international film industry is incredibly competitive and very mobile. We don’t regret giving this production our best shot with government support, ”Nash said. “However, we are disappointed for the local screen industry.”
New Zealand became synonymous with Tolkien’s world of orcs, elves and hobbits after Jackson made six films in the South Pacific nation. The “Lord of the Rings” trilogy and “The Hobbit” trilogy combined have grossed nearly $ 6 billion at the box office.
When Amazon Studios first announced it would be filming in New Zealand, it said the pristine coasts, forests and mountains made it the perfect place to bring the primordial beauty of early Middle-earth to life. .
The large cast includes Cynthia Addai-Robinson, Morfydd Clark, Ismael Cruz Córdova, Sophia Nomvete and Lloyd Owen.