The Economic Impact of LOTR

Updated October 19, 2022 · 2 Min Read

The Lord of the Rings series tells spellbinding stories of Middle-earth. Discover how this popular series has boosted the economy throughout generations. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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Entrance to Hobbiton movie set in New Zealand Credit: AleLaFarina / iStock / Getty Images Plus

The Economic Impact Of Lord Of The Rings

The Economic Impact Of Lord Of The Rings

It's hard to believe that it's been 75 years since J.R.R. Tolkien first imagined the inhabitants of Middle-earth. Tolkien said he originally wrote The Hobbit, with its adventures of halflings and goblins and elves, to amuse his children. He ended up writing a story that would last for generations, though, and the three-volume novel that followed — The Lord of the Rings — cemented his place in literary history. With more than 150 million copies sold, the trilogy is one of the best-selling novels ever, and today it stands as one of the highest-grossing franchises of all time.

The economic impact of Tolkien's masterpiece is difficult to fathom, but the brand is obviously a goldmine. Today's readers are as enraptured with the against-all-odds heroics of the hobbits as they were over 50 years ago. And New Zealand, home to the locations from Peter Jackson's film adaptations of Lord of the Rings, has seen an explosion in tourism. (Jackson's three movies grossed almost $2 billion worldwide.) Additionally, businesses from movie theaters and toy and game manufacturers owe Tolkien a debt of gratitude.

Check out the latest video from to see the breakdown of the economic impact of this fantasy epic. With the arrival of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in movie theaters, the franchise doesn't look to be slowing down any time soon.

Video Transcript

Written from 1937-1949, The Lord of the Rings has sold over 150 million copies, been turned into wildly successful movies, and is the 4th best-selling novel of all time. The economic impact of this series can be broken out into three general areas.

  1. Books: Current prices vary from $20 for a paperback to $50 and beyond for special sets of hardbacks. At a modest average of about $15 - it's feasible to assume the books have made $2.25 billion, not counting the sales of used books.
  2. Movies: Lord of the Rings sits comfortably as the 6th highest grossing movie franchise of all time - pulling in just under 4 billion dollars. On a per film basis, The Return of the King actually made the second most money of a franchise film, beating out Harry Potter and only being beaten by Star Wars. It made $1.1 billion, not including the $200 million in advance taxation credits New Zealand offered to lure director Peter Jackson away from Australia for filming.
  3. Tourism: From 2000 to 2006, New Zealand watched their tourism numbers jump from 1.7 to 2.4 million, a 40% increase, and many people credit the increase to Lord of the Rings tourism.

But let's not forget the Hobbit: New Zealand offered another $25 million in tax breaks to Warner Brothers to secure the filming location of these films.# In comparison to the Star Wars prequel series, which brought in $1.4 billion - about half the income of the original series - if the Hobbit trilogy does well, it could mean another $2 billion dollars for the Lord of the Rings franchise. That's roughly the GDP of Greenland.

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