Amazon's $300 million new spy series 'Citadel' debuts to mediocre reviews and could be another high-profile miss for the streamer
- Amazon's ambitious new spy series, "Citadel," starring Priyanka Chopra, premiered today.
- Costing as much as an estimated $300 million, it stands to be one of the most expensive series ever made.
Amazon has a lot riding on its new ambitious spy series, "Citadel," but so far critics are less than impressed.
"Citadel," which premiered today exclusively on Prime Video and has already been green-lit for a second season, has gotten a 56% critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 41 reviews. Rotten Tomatoes deems a 60% score or less to be "rotten." The audience has been far more positive, giving it an 87% rating, and scores often move up or down in the days after a series' premiere.
"The time-bending plot certainly won't earn many points for originality, but it's the kind of meat-and-potatoes series that should find an attentive audience on Amazon, which has already tapped into a similar vein with 'Jack Ryan' and 'Reacher,'" Brian Lowry wrote for CNN.
ABC's Peter Travers called it a "sexy thrill ride" that "merely repurposes rusty spy tropes."
Of course, the critics' reviews may not matter if "Citadel" performs well with audiences.
Amazon closely guards performance data of its programming, and whatever happens with "Citadel," insiders say, the company could argue that the series is a hit for the service.
Amazon's goal with programs like "Citadel" is to attract a global audience and keep people subscribing to Prime. Produced by star directors Joe and Anthony Russo of "Avengers" fame and starring Priyanka Chopra Jonas, "Citadel" is an attempt to replicate the universe storytelling pioneered by Marvel, with local language spinoffs being produced in places like India and Italy.
Amazon judges its projects based on an internal metric called PVC, or Prime Video consumption — what percentage of streams in a given period that a particular project represents. The company also looks at how many new members a show attracts; if a show is watched by current members who haven't streamed on Prime Video in 30 days; and what percentage of viewers complete the whole series.
Amazon Studios' Head of Global Television Vernon Sanders told Insider earlier that "Citadel" is new territory for the company but that its biggest swings have generally been the titles that bring the most people to the service.
The question insiders are asking is whether the series will be a big enough hit to justify the cost.
Since the project was announced in 2018, it has become one of the most expensive TV series ever made. A person with knowledge of the production previously told Insider that the cost ballooned from an estimated $165 million for 10 30-minute episodes to $300 million for six, though a source familiar with company thinking said the total was under $200 million.
Amazon also spent heavily on "Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power," reportedly shelling out nearly $500 million for its first season, which would make it the most expensive television series ever produced. Yet the series reportedly only had a 37% percent completion rate, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Under Jen Salke, Studios has spent heavily to establish itself as a player in Hollywood, but Amazon just laid off around 100 people from Studios and Prime Video as the company looks to rein in costs across the board.