June 19, 2001

Lord of the Onion Rings?
Staff Reporter

NEW YORK (Reuters): A Bilbo Baggins burger, perhaps? Frodo and fries? The Lord of the Rings and Burger King's onion rings are cooking up some publicity.

New Line Cinema said Thursday it signed its biggest promotional agreement ever to promote the much-anticipated screen version of JRR Tolkien's classic tales of wizards and hobbits in Middle Earth.

Fast-food giant Burger King, a unit of Britain's Diageo, will feature characters from the movie, which debuts December 19, in more than 10,000 of its restaurants worldwide.

"Burger King is a family-friendly brand with high recognition and significant reach around the world," said Rolf Mittweg, president and chief operating officer of distribution and marketing for New Line Cinema. "They are the perfect promotional partner for us."

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring will star Elijah Wood as Frodo, Ian Holm as Bilbo Baggins and Christopher Lee as the evil Sauron. Another notable English actor, Ian McKellen, plays the wizard Gandalf, who leads Frodo on his quest to destroy the magical ring that makes its wearer invisible, but at a price - corruption.

Both companies were typically tight-lipped about how much they paid to get Gandalf, Frodo and the Hobbits to come to The Home of the Whopper, but New Line, a subsidiary of AOL Time Warner, said it was its biggest promotion ever - eclipsing the one for Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me in 1999.

Rose Polidoro, New Line's vice president for national promotions, told Reuters only that "this is big".

But they were keeping the details secret to play into the magical spell of the classic tale of good versus evil.

"We are thinking of it like a present that you want to unwrap bit by bit," she said. "It will really mirror the movie, it's all in the imagination. It's whatever you can imagine."

Burger King, which just spent an estimated $US20 million for a promotional tie-in for DreamWorks' box-office hit Shrek, also wouldn't say if Middle Earth figures would lord it over the onion rings, or if there would be magic rings hidden in the french fries.

"The literary significance of this property coupled with its superior entertainment value and tremendous built-in fan base, make it a smart fit for our global brand," said Richard Taylor, Burger King's vice president for US marketing.

"New Line is delivering an epic film that truly delivers what made Lord of the Rings the phenomenon it is today," said Taylor.