Amazon Studios will move the production of future seasons of its upcoming Lord of the Rings television series to the United Kingdom, the New Zealand government said on Friday.
The studio finished filming season 1 of the highly anticipated show in New Zealand earlier this month.
Post-production for the season will continue in the Pacific island through June 2022, Economic Development Minister Stuart Nash said.
"The government was informed of the decision yesterday," Nash said, adding that he was disappointed by the move.
New Zealand's stunning scenery had become synonymous with modern screen interpretations of author J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle Earth, since the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies were shot there by Oscar-winning Kiwi director Peter Jackson.
Tours of the village of "Hobbiton" and of areas used in the filming are a lucrative tourist attraction.
"The shift from New Zealand to the UK aligns with the studio's strategy of expanding its production footprint and investing in studio space across the UK, with many of Amazon Studios' tentpole series and films already calling the UK home," Amazon said in a statement.
The studio said that pre-production of season two will begin concurrently in the UK early next year.
Meanwhile, the elaborate sets built for the show will be shipped to the UK, Deadline reported. However, it is still unclear where in UK will the rest of the series be shot.
Actor Elijah Wood, who played the leading role of Frodo Baggins, responded with a single and unimpressed emoji on reading the news.
Extra tax credit withdrawn
Amazon will be spending $465 million filming the first season of the show, according to the New Zealand government.
It qualified for a 20% tax rebate from New Zealand's Screen Production Grant. The show was given an extra 5% incentive this past spring which will now be withdrawn.
"As we look to relocate the production to the UK, we do not intend to actively pursue the Season One MoU five percent financial uplift with the New Zealand government or preserve the terms around that agreement," Albert Cheng, COO and co-head of TV for Amazon Studios was quoted as saying by Variety.
"However, we respectfully defer to our partners and will remain in close consultation with them around next steps," he said.
Amazon is expected to make five seasons of the show, making one of the most expensive TV series ever. The first season is scheduled for release in September 2022. The story will be set many years before the events in Tolkien's books.
The untitled series was first announced in November 2017. After the COVID-19 pandemic hit, New Zealand closed it borders and the cast, more than half of whom are British, were unable to visit their families in two years, the Deadline said. The country's handling of the virus included lockdowns which also prevented Amazon executives from visiting the set to monitor the shoot, the entertainment news outlet added.