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Middle Earth is moving: Amazon shifts 'Lord of the Rings' filming to UK

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WELLINGTON, Aug 13 (Reuters) - Amazon Studios (AMZN.O) said on Friday the second season of its multi-million dollar "Lord of the Rings" television series will be filmed in the United Kingdom, moving fictional 'Middle Earth' out of New Zealand for the first time.

New Zealand's rolling mountains, meadows and forests were made famous as the backdrop for the "The Lord of the Rings" and the "Hobbit" film trilogies shot in the country by Oscar winning director Peter Jackson.

The filming of Amazon's multi-million dollar TV series of the epic fantasy is currently underway in New Zealand, but the studio plans to move filming of the second season to Britain, Amazon said in a statement.

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"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.

The New Zealand government said it was told of the move yesterday and was disappointed at the decision.

"Amazon Studios advised that post-production work on Season One will continue in New Zealand till June 2022," Economic Development Minister Stuart Nash said in a statement.

Amazon said pre-production on Season Two will begin concurrently in the UK next year.

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A participant dressed as a character from J.R.R. Tolkien's novel "The Hobbit" takes part in a reenactment of the "Battle of Five Armies" in a forest near the town of Doksy, Czech Republic, June 16, 2018. REUTERS/David W Cerny/File Photo

The TV version of "The Lord of the Rings" is scheduled to launch in September 2022, Amazon Studios said earlier this month. read more

Amazon is spending about $465 million filming the first season of the show, according to the New Zealand government.

Nash said an extra 5% incentive offered by New Zealand's Screen Production Grant in addition to a 20% grant the production already qualifies for would be withdrawn. Amazon said it would not pursue the 5% financial uplift.

Amazon Studios is expected to produce five seasons of the show, making it one of the most expensive TV series ever.

Amazon has said the first season will be available in more than 240 nations, with new episodes released weekly.

The epic fantasy plot will take place thousands of years before the events narrated by writer J.R.R. Tolkien in his books "The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings."

($1 = 1.4284 New Zealand dollars)

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Reporting by Praveen Menon; editing by Richard Pullin

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