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Fans line up for "Lord of the Rings" premier

Posted: Thursday, December 20, 2001

LOS ANGELES -- From hard-core fans to some who couldn't read past the first pages of the books, people flocked to theaters like hobbits on a pilgrimage to Middle-earth to see the much-anticipated debut of ''The Lord of the Rings'' early Wednesday.

''Amazing -- just amazing,'' said Edward Chu, 26, leaving a late-night showing in Toronto. ''I am definitely going to have to see that again. A couple of times.''

He and thousands of others were expected to turn ''The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring,'' into an instant box-office blockbuster. Advance ticket sellers reported Tuesday that the movie, based on the first book in J.R.R. Tolkien's ''Lord of the Rings'' trilogy, was responsible for roughly 85 percent of their sales this week.

''It will certainly be one of the biggest advance ticket sales of the season, probably second to Harry Potter,'' said Russ Leatherman, the founder and voice of Moviefone, the telephone service that by Tuesday had sold more than 100,000 advance tickets to ''Rings.''

 

he Fellowship proceeds with caution in the Mines of Moria, in this scene from "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring," in this undated publicity photo. To make hobbits and the place they live look as real as possible, special effects designer Richard Taylor mixed old and new techniques. Sometimes, he employed 21st century computers. Sometimes he just stuck one guy closer to the camera. "The trick is to mix up the effects as comprehensively as possible," he says.

AP Photo/New Line Cinema

Online ticket distributor Fandango.com reported the film had sold about half as many tickets as ''Potter.'' However, the boy-wizard movie figures averaged about five times higher than any other film this year, which means ''Rings'' is still on track for a powerful debut.

Like ''Potter,'' ''Lord of the Rings'' has the advantage of a fanatically loyal fan base of readers. Hard-core Tolkien fans are known to spend hours discussing the author's world of pint-size hobbits, ethereal elves, plucky dwarves, imposing wizards and up-and-coming humans.

On top of that, early reviews have often been ecstatic.

Salon.com named it ''the movie of the year,'' and Entertainment Weekly called it a ''great picture, a triumphant picture, a joyfully conceived work of cinema.''

High school student Clifton Robinson, sipping tea to keep warm as he stood in line with about 30 other people outside a Cleveland theater late Tuesday, didn't mind that he had to be back in class at 8 a.m. Wednesday. The movie's first showings began at 12:01 a.m.

''I thought it would be something monumental, kind of like the new 'Star Wars,''' said Robin-son.

In Cleveland's suburban Valley View, where four screenings of ''Rings'' began at midnight at the Cinemark complex, people in one of the packed theaters sat in reverent silence as the movie began.

''I've been unable to do anything but read Tolkien for the past two weeks,'' said Gary Mengle of Avon Lake, Ohio, who drove 60 miles to see it.

Even Annette Beck, 42, of Cleveland, who said she ''couldn't get past the first paragraph'' when she tried to read Tolkien in the 1970s, was in line before midnight.

''I think I can understand it better by seeing it rather than reading it,'' she said.

In Iowa, Angie Tollerson, 25, planned to wear an elfin sorceress costume to a Wednesday night screening in Des Moines.

''We have a line party going outside the theater and about 30 people are planning to show up,'' she said. ''I can't wait. There'll be minstrels playing, and my husband is going as (the wizard) Gandalf.''

Tollerson put together a database of line parties around the world for the fan Web site TheOneRing.net. She estimated about 4,200 people planned to attend about 500 gatherings around the globe.

The first of the three ''Lord of the Rings'' movies, all filmed at once, was to open in more than 10,000 theaters around the world, according to New Line Cinema. The movie stars Elijah Wood as the hobbit Frodo Baggins, whose quest is to destroy the One Ring. Ian McKellen plays the wizard Gandalf, and Liv Tyler appears as the elf Arwen.

Intertops, the Internet sports betting site, set 7-to-5 odds that ''Rings'' would break the $90.3 million three-day, opening-weekend box-office record set by ''Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone'' last month.

However, ''Rings'' debuts on a Wednesday, just like the previous record-holder ''Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace,'' and the largest portion of its business could come before the weekend.

''That gives it a jump on other films a little early,'' said Paul Dergarabedian, president of Exhibitor Relations, which tracks the box office. ''Also the core audience for this film reads and they are probably following the reviews very closely. The good news is that the early buzz and critical reviews have been very strong, so that's a good sign for the weekend.''

HEAD:Fans line up for 'Lord of the Rings' premiere

CREDIT:AP Photo/New Line Cinema

CAPTION:Actor Elijah Wood is shown in a scene from New Line Cinema's "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring."

BYLINE1:By ANTHONY BREZNICAN

BYLINE2:AP Entertainment Writer

LOS ANGELES -- From hard-core fans to some who couldn't read past the first pages of the books, people flocked to theaters like hobbits on a pilgrimage to Middle-earth to see the much-anticipated debut of ''The Lord of the Rings'' early Wednesday.

''Amazing -- just amazing,'' said Edward Chu, 26, leaving a late-night showing in Toronto. ''I am definitely going to have to see that again. A couple of times.''

He and thousands of others were expected to turn ''The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring,'' into an instant box-office blockbuster. Advance ticket sellers reported Tuesday that the movie, based on the first book in J.R.R. Tolkien's ''Lord of the Rings'' trilogy, was responsible for roughly 85 percent of their sales this week.

''It will certainly be one of the biggest advance ticket sales of the season, probably second to Harry Potter,'' said Russ Leatherman, the founder and voice of Moviefone, the telephone service that by Tuesday had sold more than 100,000 advance tickets to ''Rings.''

Online ticket distributor Fandango.com reported the film had sold about half as many tickets as ''Potter.'' However, the boy-wizard movie figures averaged about five times higher than any other film this year, which means ''Rings'' is still on track for a powerful debut.

Like ''Potter,'' ''Lord of the Rings'' has the advantage of a fanatically loyal fan base of readers. Hard-core Tolkien fans are known to spend hours discussing the author's world of pint-size hobbits, ethereal elves, plucky dwarves, imposing wizards and up-and-coming humans.

On top of that, early reviews have often been ecstatic.

Salon.com named it ''the movie of the year,'' and Entertainment Weekly called it a ''great picture, a triumphant picture, a joyfully conceived work of cinema.''

High school student Clifton Robinson, sipping tea to keep warm as he stood in line with about 30 other people outside a Cleveland theater late Tuesday, didn't mind that he had to be back in class at 8 a.m. Wednesday. The movie's first showings began at 12:01 a.m.

''I thought it would be something monumental, kind of like the new 'Star Wars,''' said Robin-son.

In Cleveland's suburban Valley View, where four screenings of ''Rings'' began at midnight at the Cinemark complex, people in one of the packed theaters sat in reverent silence as the movie began.

''I've been unable to do anything but read Tolkien for the past two weeks,'' said Gary Mengle of Avon Lake, Ohio, who drove 60 miles to see it.

Even Annette Beck, 42, of Cleveland, who said she ''couldn't get past the first paragraph'' when she tried to read Tolkien in the 1970s, was in line before midnight.

''I think I can understand it better by seeing it rather than reading it,'' she said.

In Iowa, Angie Tollerson, 25, planned to wear an elfin sorceress costume to a Wednesday night screening in Des Moines.

''We have a line party going outside the theater and about 30 people are planning to show up,'' she said. ''I can't wait. There'll be minstrels playing, and my husband is going as (the wizard) Gandalf.''

Tollerson put together a database of line parties around the world for the fan Web site TheOneRing.net. She estimated about 4,200 people planned to attend about 500 gatherings around the globe.

The first of the three ''Lord of the Rings'' movies, all filmed at once, was to open in more than 10,000 theaters around the world, according to New Line Cinema. The movie stars Elijah Wood as the hobbit Frodo Baggins, whose quest is to destroy the One Ring. Ian McKellen plays the wizard Gandalf, and Liv Tyler appears as the elf Arwen.

Intertops, the Internet sports betting site, set 7-to-5 odds that ''Rings'' would break the $90.3 million three-day, opening-weekend box-office record set by ''Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone'' last month.

However, ''Rings'' debuts on a Wednesday, just like the previous record-holder ''Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace,'' and the largest portion of its business could come before the weekend.

''That gives it a jump on other films a little early,'' said Paul Dergarabedian, president of Exhibitor Relations, which tracks the box office. ''Also the core audience for this film reads and they are probably following the reviews very closely. The good news is that the early buzz and critical reviews have been very strong, so that's a good sign for the weekend.''



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