August 28, 2001

Making Middle-earth
Scott S. Smith

One Movie to woo them all. One movie to find them.
One Movie to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.

If New Line Cinema and director Peter Jackson have their way, millions of people across the globe will soon be bound to theater seats by movie images adapted from one of the most influential and beloved series of books in history --- J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.

The saga of how the legendary land of Middle-earth is coming to theaters as a series of three films is no less an epic - and a quest - than the Tolkien story it tries to tell. All of the perils and pitfalls of the creation of these movies, and their ultimate success or failure, will resonate through the coming years.

On December 19, The Fellowship of the Ring, the first of the three Lord of the Rings movies, will be released - the next two to premiere in successive December holiday seasons. Million of loyal readers are expected to turn Tolkien’s three-volume fantasy novel into the most successful movie series in history - Star Wars notwithstanding.

When New Line made a short preview available at its web site (www.lordoftherings.net) in Aril 1999, 1.7 million eager fans downloaded it on the first day. By comparison, Star Wars Episode I - The Phantom Menace garnered just a million downloads in a comparable period. During the first three days after The Ring’s Web site relaunch in January, it received 41 million visitors, with more than 300 million more during the following three months.

For 438 days, director Jackson and a crew of more than 2,500 turned parts of New Zealand into Tolkien’s Middle0earth, spending a reported US$270 million to accomplish the unheard-of - making all three films at one time. There are over 70 speaking parts in the three movies and a cast that includes such heavyweight names as Cate Blanchett, Christopher Lee, Liv Tyler, Elijah Wood, Sir Ian Holm, and Sir Ian McKellen.

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