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Amazon's 'Lord of the Rings' prequel faces 'tornadoes' despite record Prime debut

·Senior Reporter
·4 min read

Amazon's (AMZN) new "The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power" series has a bit of a PR problem.

Despite nabbing more than 25 million viewers in its first day on Amazon Prime Video — the best performance for an Amazon original ever, according to the company — the eight-episode season has been hit with a slew of negative reviews, including a much-talked about jab from Elon Musk.

On Monday, Musk tweeted his disappointment in the series, writing: "Tolkien is turning in his grave."

The Tesla CEO (TSLA) added in a follow-up tweet, "Almost every male character so far is a coward, a jerk or both. Only Galadriel is brave, smart and nice."

Musk has long feuded with Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. The rivalry has since been heightened by the two billionaires respective space ambitions with Musk's SpaceX often compared to Bezos' Blue Origin.

Musk's tweets come as Amazon suspended user reviews for a reported 72 hours amid supposed "review-bombing," a practice where online users purposely hammer a show with negative reviews, largely due to cultural or political issues rather than actual quality.

Disney's "She-Hulk" (DIS) was another series that fell victim to review-bombing.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, an Amazon source said the suspension will help weed out trolls and ensure each review is legitimate. The source later claimed Prime Video started the policy on all of its shows earlier this summer.

Amazon's "The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power" (Courtesy: Amazon Studios)

"With social media, these tornadoes can just kind of develop out of nowhere," Anthony Palomba, professor of business administration at UVA’s Darden School of Business, revealed to Yahoo Finance.

"This screams to me that [Amazon] is very sensitive to growing this business, and being perceived as a major player in streaming," Palomba said.

As of early Tuesday afternoon, Rotten Tomatoes' user reviews looked bleak at just 39%, compared to a critic score of 84%. Poor reviews have largely stemmed from hardcore "Lord of the Rings" fans criticizing the show's perceived deviations from Tolkien's original work.

Palomba noted that although streaming is not Amazon's primary focus, it can be a beneficial marketing tool given the tech giant's access to customer data. But, in order to be the top dog in streaming, "you need audiences to have faith in what you can do and what you can bring," Palomba said.

Although reviews nudged slightly higher as the weekend progressed, scores are still well below desired levels with IMDB's rating settling at a 6.8/10 as of Tuesday. To compare, "House of the Dragon" has an IMDB score of 8.8/10. IMBD is owned by Amazon.

"Part of this deals with super diehard people, but we also have to remember that these are people who operate in extremes. That's not necessarily indicative of how the mass audience feels," Palomba cautioned.

Overall, reviews have become an important element for both TV series and films — especially in the streaming era.

“We're still trying to figure out exactly how word of mouth translates for streaming,” Shawn Robbins, chief analyst at Box Office Pro, previously told Yahoo Finance.

Robbins added that strong word of mouth, coupled with strong reviews, typically translate to successful streaming debuts, although he did describe it as a wild west scenario as platforms scramble for both content and subscribers.

"It's a question of where do streaming releases go from here because the budgets have been getting bigger. The talent is there. It's just a question of which service is going to streamline the ability to put out quality product consistently and maintain subscribers," Robbins said.

According to Variety, Amazon spent $465 million to produce the first season of the upcoming show with the rights to the franchise costing an additional $250 million. Peter Jackson’s entire "Lord of the Rings" movie trilogy cost $281 million to produce.

Alexandra is a Senior Entertainment and Food Reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @alliecanal8193 and email her at alexandra.canal@yahoofinance.com

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