April 22, 2001
Just call it "The Lord of the Web."
The first of the three long-awaited "Lord of the Rings" films doesn't even open until Dec. 19, but the Internet buzz has already reached heights unheard of, even in the bloated world of Hollywood hype.
Part of the ballyhoo, of course, is due to New Line Cinema's official movie site, http://www.lordoftherings.net, but this isn't just a case of Tinseltown tub-thumping.
Freaks for J.R.R. Tolkien's fantasy trilogy have created dozens of sites that feature daily debates about the film versions' expected merits and flaws, juicy info-nuggets allegedly based on scuttlebutt from production insiders, and even photographs pirated (or purposely leaked) from the sets in New Zealand, where the three movies are being filmed.
It's not uncommon for movies to have Web sites these days, but it is unusual for grass-roots sites to sprout as fast as -- well, as fast as a hobbit can scurry into a hobbit hole. Only the "Star Trek" and "Star Wars" films seem to have generated this kind of fanaticism.