“Citadel” cost Amazon a lot of money. Maybe if Prime Studios only commissioned one cut of Priyanka Chopra’s spy thriller Jonas…
Tucked away on a Wednesday Bloomberg story was the backstory to how “Citadel” became one of the most expensive series in TV history, with a reported price tag north of $250 million for one season. (That number doesn’t seem entirely insane when you put it side-by-side with Amazon Prime Video’s “Lord of the Rings” series, “The Rings of Power,” which reportedly cost over $400 million to run for a first season. )
Amazon ended up with two different cuts of the first season of “Citadel,” according to Bloomberg, one of OG writers Josh Appelbaum and Bryan Oh and another semi-secret by Joe and Anthony Russo. What you see on the service is an expanded version of the latter, a costly decision that blew the show’s budget out of the water.
An Amazon Studios spokesperson did not immediately respond to IndieWire’s request for comment on Bloomberg’s story.
Appelbaum and Oh originally developed a series about spy duels that fit a vision from Amazon Studios head Jen Salke, who wanted a globe-trotting series for her Prime Video service that could lead to numerous local spinoffs. It seemed like a good all-in group: Applebaums and the Russos already had a blanket television deal through his Midnight Radio and their AGBO, and Salke and the brothers worked together on NBC’s “Community.” That doesn’t mean that the parties have played nice on this one.
The Russos disliked the planned romance between Chopra Jonas and her co-star Richard Madden, as well as “other plot elements,” according to Bloomberg. So they set up a second editing team in Los Angeles – the official one was in London – and created what the business publication called an “alternative version” of “Citadel”. That cut was sent to Amazon “without showing it to the whole team,” the story continues, which prompted the London operation to send its “rushed” cut to Salke.
The decision was made to support the Russos, better known as the stewards of the MCU; their cut also tested best with focus groups, according to Bloomberg. But it also required “substantial” reshoots – more than half of the show had to be re-shot – as well as a new screenwriter, David Weil. A show with a reported budget of $20 million per episode added “at least” $80 million in costs. Let’s talk about Marvel territory.
Unfortunately, Amazon hasn’t seen a big payback on the gargantuan spend, at least not as far as we know. ‘Citadel’ Season 1 has never made it into Nielsen’s Top 10 Most Watched Streaming Shows in the US (it once made it into the Top 10 for originals alone).
Odetta Watkins, head of drama series at Amazon, She said at last month’s Banff World Media Festival in Canada that the series “needs time to grow” its audience in America. He also said US viewers are “tired”.
Amazon renewed “Citadel” for a second season in May; Joe Russo will direct each episode, which will reportedly make him $25 million richer. It’s a good thing the company got the same amount in tax credits to move filming of season 2 from the UK to California.
At the time of the renewal announcement, Amazon touted the series’ “extraordinary success” internationally, including in India. “Citadel” is Prime Video’s “second most-watched new original series outside of the United States,” according to that press release.