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Amazon Brings New 'Lord of the Rings' TV Show to Movie Theaters

In an era when many movies don't even get a theatrical release, Amazon is giving one to its $500 million LotR television series.

The popularity of streaming, and the need for nearly every media company and studio to have their own streaming service, has normalized the idea of watching epic films from the comfort of your home. That’s a good thing, by the way. No film is in theaters forever, and it’s nice to be able to go to the bathroom whenever you feel like it.

But directors and film aficionados still treasure the experience of seeing a film on a big screen. It’s a transformative experience you just can’t get anywhere else, no matter how nice your television set is.

There’s been some fretting in critical and fan corners over the years that as streaming has taken over, the filmgoing experience will disappear, which would certainly be a headache for AMC  (AMCX) - Get Free Report, and is one of the reasons Regal is having such a hard time at the moment. 

Those fears might be a bit overstated, though, as the record-breaking success of “Top Gun: Maverick,” as well as “Elvis” and “Thor: Love and Thunder,” as well as the art-house success of films like “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” shows that people still like seeing films in theaters. Maybe the pandemic made us realize we’d been taking it for granted?

One of the most grandiose cinematic epics of the 21st century was Peter Jackson’s adaptation of J. R. R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, which won an Oscar for Best Picture (for 2003’s “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King”) and set the template for Hollywood’s quest to milk all that it can out of every remaining piece of intellectual property.

And now one of the new owners to the rings of “Rings” world is bringing fans both back to Middle Earth, and bringing Middle Earth back to the big screen, but only for a limited time.

Amazon Really Wants You To Know It Has A New ‘Lord of the Rings’ Show

Amazon  (AMZN) - Get Free Report has a streaming service, Amazon Video Prime. But unless you’re a really big fan of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,”  "The Boys," or you are one of the people who really love the “Jack Reacher” series and still complain that Tom Cruise was the wrong choice to play the big guy on the screen, it’s kind of easy to forget about the service.

To be fair, Amazon Prime has some nice things on it. The British imports “Catastrophe” and “Fleabag” were two of the defining comedies of the last half of the ‘10s, and this year’s adults living with autism drama “As We See It,” earned critical raves. And certainly, "The Boys" has a robust cult following. But Amazon has struggled to find its own “Game of Thrones” or “Stranger Things,” the sort of zeitgeist-defining hit that draws in new viewers and subscribers, and cuts across demographics and generations.

Those types of shows are hard to make. They take the right creative team and actors, a strong vision, and lots of chemistry and luck. But as Walt Disney  (DIS) - Get Free Report knows with its Marvel and Star Wars offerings, recognizable intellectual property helps a lot. So if you don’t have a big show or any real IP to speak of, you can always try to buy some. Well, you can if you are former Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.

In 2017, Amazon made headlines by paying $250 million to Middle-earth Enterprises, aka the The Saul Zaentz Co., for the rights to television adaptations of “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings.” (Tolkien sold the rights in 1968 to United Artists, which later sold it to Saul Zaentz in 1976.) From there, the company spent $465 million on an eight-episode season of its upcoming adaptation “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power,” which will premiere Sept. 2 on Amazon Video Prime.

The series takes place in the Second Age of Middle-earth's history, and is set thousands of years before the events of “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings.”

Seeing as how Amazon spent more than half a billion dollars on an adaptation, and would really like its streaming service to be less of a cultural afterthought, the company is pulling out all the stops to get the word out, including special fan screenings of the first two episodes in select theaters across the country.

The screenings are free, but will only happen at Cinemark Theaters. To be eligible, customers will need to join Cinemark’s Movie Rewards program, which has a free tier, as well as a $9.99 per month tier that includes discounts for tickets and concession food.

Whether or not “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power,” will prove able to compete with HBO Max’s  (WBD) - Get Free Report new “House of Dragons” remains to be seen, and advanced reviews have not hit the internet yet.

There’s More ‘Lord of the Rings’ To Come

Is Tolkien’s Middle Earth big enough to support a Marvel-style cinematic universe? We’re about to find out.

Recently news broke that Swedish video game and media company Embracer Group has purchased the rights to “Lord of the Rings,” “The Hobbit” and other properties from the Saul Zaentz Co. The terms of the deal were not disclosed, but multiple media reports claimed around $2 billion.

While Amazon owns the TV rights (for now), everything else was up for grabs apparently, as the company plans to make more films, as well as video games, board games, merchandising, theme parks, and even stage productions. 

So...we're getting a lot more "Lord of the Rings" stuff in the future. Fans better get ready for "Hobbit!: A Musical Adventure Into Middle Earth."