September 8, 2001

Hobbits Go Head-to-Head with Potter at Movies
Staff Reporter

LONDON (Reuters): The Hobbit is to go head-to-head with Harry Potter in a battle at the movies that could match their rivalry in the bookstores of the world.

Over the past half century, JRR Tolkien's classic fantasy The Lord of the Rings about Hobbits, trolls, elves and wizards has sold an estimated 100 million copies worldwide.

JK Rowling's tales of Potter the teenage wizard matched that figure in just four years.

Now Hollywood takes up the challenge with the first Harry Potter film set to hit the big screen in November. The first film in the Tolkien trilogy follows at Christmas.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone - or Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone as it will be called in the United States - gets its worldwide premiere in London on November 4.

The film, starring Daniel Radcliffe as the bespectacled wizard, cost $US150 million ($NZ349.16 million) to make, but Warner Bros Pictures is confident Pottermania will seize fans worldwide.

Rowling said she was eager to see the film version of her first literary hit, especially the cinematic portrayal of Quidditch, the basketball-like game played by wizards on broomsticks.

"I've been watching it in my head for nine years now and finally I'll get to see it along with everybody else," she told Vanity Fair magazine.

And then it is over to Lord of the Rings.

The first of the $US300 million trilogy, The Fellowship of the Ring, starring Ian McKellen, Cate Blanchett and Christopher Lee, is set to open on December 19 and become a multiplex blockbuster every year for the next three years.

"This is the pinnacle of my career. I have never been involved in a film like this before. It is superb and unforgettable," Christopher Lee said of the films made in great secrecy in New Zealand.

New Zealand director Peter Jackson said: "I have spent the last seven years of my life on this project pouring my heart into every single aspect of it."

When the film's official website ( was launched at the start of the year, 350 million hits were recorded in the first three months alone.

And Hobbit fever is already building up in the bookshops.

Publishers HarperCollins reported that sales have climbed 400 percent this year without any marketing or promotion.

That leaves publisher David Brawn with a headache.

He told Britain's Independent newspaper: "We and the Tolkien family are worried that there is a genuine risk of burnout, that at the end of it there will be nobody left to read this book and we'll then suffer. Once every household has a copy of the book, there is nobody else to sell it to."