May 22, 2001
Ever since director Peter Jackson started shooting the $270 million ''Lord of the Rings'' trilogy in his native New Zealand a millennium ago (October 1999, to be exact), New Line Cinema has kept the project swathed in secrecy. That's not to say the films lack buzz. In January, the studios' first Internet preview in January was downloaded by 1.7 million people in 24 hours, and fansites have rabidly recorded both major developments (such as the casting of Liv Tyler and Cate Blanchett) and minutiae (like the news flash when Tyler spoke Elvish, the language of the elves, on ''Late Night with Conan O'Brien'').
Yet the look and tone of the film remained anyone's guess. Until now. On May 16, the studio screened some 20 plus minutes of footage for several hundred journalists at New York City's Sony Lincoln Square Theatre. (On May 10, reporters at the Cannes Film Festival saw the same scenes, and the resulting coverage nearly overshadowed the movies in competition.)