Amazon.com Inc (NASDAQ:AMZN) has decided to move the production of its Lord of the Rings TV series to the UK for its second season, dealing a blow to Middle Earth’s traditional homeland of New Zealand.
The first season of the series, which is due to be released on Amazon’s Prime streaming service in September next year, was filmed in New Zealand and reportedly cost around US$465mln to film, however, reports said the country’s government had been informed on Thursday that production would move to the UK after filming wraps up next June.
It was reported that the estate of Lord of the Rings author JRR Tolkien has been encouraging the series to be shot in the UK, which has many of the landscapes that inspired the original texts. Another possible reason for the move may be the UK’s relatively lax pandemic restrictions compared to New Zealand’s stricter regime.
However, Amazon may also have been lured in by tax rebates provided by the UK for large budget TV series, an issue that also provoked controversy in New Zealand when the series was first announced.
The New Zealand government provided Amazon with a 20% tax credit as part of a deal to film the first season of the series, as well as an additional 5% for future series. To date, the amount of rebates and incentives offered to Amazon are estimated to have amounted to over US$100mln.
Amazon’s decision also threatens the jobs of the 1,200 New Zealanders who were employed to work on the first season of the show, as well as a potential public backlash against politicians seen as having enabled Amazon’s sweetheart tax deal.