Jeff Bezos made a surprise appearance at The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power global premiere last night, joking about his notes to showrunners and son’s “Don’t f*ck it up” advice as the battle of the tentpole prequels between Amazon Prime Video and HBO’s House of the Dragon hots up.
Demonstrating Lord of the Rings’ importance to the overall Amazon business, the Founder and Executive Chairman made the trip to the global premiere in London’s Leicester Square for the most expensive TV show of all time, alongside Amazon Studios boss Jennifer Salke, showrunners Patrick McKay and J.D. Payne and the majority of cast and crew.
In his tribute to McKay and Payne, Bezos, who was introduced to Lord of the Rings writer J.R.R. Tolkien’s books by his grandfather, thanked them for “ignoring me at exactly the right times” when he was giving notes on early scripts.
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“Every showrunners’ dream is to get notes on early scripts and cuts from the Executive Chairman, they just love that,” he joked. “I want to thank you both for listening whenever it helped but mostly I need to thank you for ignoring me at exactly the right times.”
Although some people “questioned the choice” of showrunners, he said “one of the best decisions we made was to bet on this relatively unknown team because we saw something special.” The pair have been writing together for 20 years but don’t have a huge amount of major credits.
Bezos also revealed his son’s advice.
“My kid is a huge Tolkien fan and after Amazon got involved he came up to me, looked me in the eye and said ‘Dad, please don’t f*ck this up’.”
Bezos concluded swiftly with a Tolkien quote, proclaiming: “Not all those who wander are lost.”
In her introductory speech, Salke thanked Bezos for “starting this journey many moons ago,” adding: “In unprecedented times we have achieved something that has never been accomplished before.”
The audience were then treated to the first two episodes of the circa-$465M 10-part series, which stars Morfydd Clark, Peter Mullan and Lenny Henry and is set 2000 years prior to Peter Jackson’s much-loved epics. A second season is already gearing up for production in the UK.
Battle of the prequels
Bezos’ surprise appearance is demonstrative of the battle raging between Amazon and HBO/Sky as they each attempt to have their big-money prequel come out on top.
Marketing budgets have been astronomical and much focus has been placed outside of the U.S., reflecting the majority British casts in both The Rings of Power and House of the Dragon, and the globalized nature of the modern TV industry.
House of the Dragon had two European premieres, one in Amsterdam during the first week of August and the other a fortnight ago in London’s Leicester Square Odeon Luxe, the same venue as last night’s Amazon showing. HBO owner Warner Bros. Discovery execs such as Casey Bloys and Priya Dogra were present in Amsterdam.
Both shows were years in the making and having them come out at almost exactly the same time – The Rings of Power launches Friday – could prove costly to the middling fantasy fan who may not have time to squeeze both in to their weekly TV viewing habit.
HBO has had a headstart and has already said House of the Dragon is its most-watched premiere in European history, coming at a time when new conglomerate owner Warner Bros. Discovery is shrinking its European commissioning teams.
Amazon rarely indicates the performance of its shows so it will be difficult to see how The Rings of Power matches up against its HBO rival, but the pair’s outsized cultural impacts will be felt over the coming weeks and it may become obvious who is coming out on top.
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