A poster for Peter Jackson's epic trilogy 'Lord of the Rings.' Photo: Handout

There and Back Again – a shopper’s tale. E-commerce and streaming giant Amazon has announced that filming will start on its big-budget Lord of the Rings television series in the next few months.

Like the epic fantasy trilogy from award-winning director Peter Jackson, it will be shot in New Zealand.

Jackson also used the country’s spectacular settings to film J. R. R. Tolkien’s prequel novel, The Hobbit, or “There and Back Again – A Hobbit’s Tale.”

“We needed to find somewhere majestic, with pristine coasts, forests, and mountains, that also is home to world-class sets, studios, and highly skilled and experienced craftspeople,” executive producers J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay said in a statement.

Amazon bought the TV rights to Tolkien’s literary classic two years ago when screens were ruled by HBO’s blockbuster Game of Thrones. But unlike HBO and others such as Netflix, a hit for the US e-commerce group could not only draw in viewers but also shoppers to its Prime subscription service.

It will also be good news for New Zealand.

Jackson’s Rings trilogy and The Hobbit sparked a tourism boom in the country.

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Millions of visitors have flocked to locations used in the movies, helping tourism overtake dairy exports as the country’s biggest earner.

Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit also transformed the nation’s film sector from a cottage industry into a world leader, particularly in digital special effects.

“It’s great to see New Zealand’s association with Middle Earth is continuing,” Phil Twyford, the minister of economic development, said in a reference to Tolkien’s fictitious world.

Amazon is reportedly spending US$1 billion-plus on the series as it seeks to emulate the runaway success enjoyed by HBO’s Games of Thrones.

Pre-production had already begun and shooting will start in Auckland “in the coming months.”

It has already made a multi-season commitment to the series, which will explore storylines set long before the events depicted in Jackson’s films. While the New Zealand-born director will have no direct involvement in the series, he has made it clear he was available for consultation.

Previously, Amazon had confirmed that Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom director J.A. Bayona will helm the first two episodes of the series.

“This is a really exciting opportunity for Auckland,” Phil Goff, the mayor of Auckland, told the New Zealand Herald. “This is a great place to make films and TV, and Amazon’s new series is another chance to demonstrate our skills and capacity to the industry worldwide.

“This production will support Auckland’s world-class screen businesses to grow, create jobs and provide an immense boost to our regional and national economy. We already have a billion-dollar screen industry and being the main production base for Amazon’s new TV series will take it to a new level,” he added.

– addition reporting AFP

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