‘The Rings of Power’ draws record 25 million viewers

Amazon Studios on Saturday said its much-anticipated series, “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power,” broke viewership records, with more than 25 million people tuning in to watch on the first day.

The show, based on the appendices of “The Return of the King,” premiered on Amazon Prime Video on Thursday in more than 240 territories and countries.

Jennifer Salke, head of Amazon Studios, in a statement called it “a proud moment,” adding, “it is the tens of millions of fans watching — clearly as passionate about Middle-earth as we are — who are our true measure of success.”

As the most expensive TV series ever made, the production marks a big bet for Amazon, which spent more than $700 million on the first season, including the rights to adapt J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit,” sources told The Times.

Amazon’s series takes place in the second age of Middle-earth, during the time when the Rings of Power were forged. The show centers on elf Galadriel’s quest to extinguish evil from Middle-earth. The series also features dwarves and harfoots (ancestors of hobbits).

While “The Rings of Power” has drawn mostly positive reviews from critics, it has stirred controversy among some fans who object to its casting decisions and how it has handled the stories of popular characters like Galadriel, who in the show is portrayed as an elven commander in charge of the Northern Armies. Amazon executives have defended the casting decisions.

On Rotten Tomatoes, the series received an 84% average score based on reviews, but a 37% average audience score.

The re-imagining of the Tolkien franchise represents Amazon’s latest push to cement its status as one of Hollywood’s premier studios.

In March, it spent $8.5 billion to acquire the storied MGM film studio, home of the James Bond and Rocky movies. The company, which is based in Culver City, also has been ramping up its free streaming service, Freevee, to appeal to price-conscious consumers and grab a big piece of the TV ad market.

Staff writer Meg James contributed to this report.

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