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February 15, 2002 - February 22, 2002

2-22-02 Latest News

Peter Jackson On CNN
Xoanon @ 1:29 pm EST

Chadster sends in this report from the amazing PJ interview on CNN oh-so early this morning!

Peter Jackson was interviewed on CNN this morning (around 8:45 am US Central Time) during its "American Morning" show. The interview was short, and basically covered the film's development with Miramax and New Line. He said that his crew worked for about 2 years developing the sceenplay, art direction, etc. with Miramax , but that Miramax wanted to make only 2 movies. PJ came to them with a budget of 150 million, but Miramax placed their cap at $75 million, and then suggested PJ cram everything into one movie. So PJ then went to New Line, and someone at New Line said, "Two movies? Isn't the story told in 3 books? Let's make 3 movies!" PJ was sold, and the rest will be history...

The best part of the interview was when PJ was asked if the success of this movie has opened up doors for him in Hollywood. PJ admitted it had opened many doors, but "none that I want to walk through." Pretty bold statement.

Kudos to PJ. Also surprising was that PJ was wearing a NICE SHIRT and PANTS! They looked pretty new, in fact. He was also wearing the same shoes he did during the entire filming. The interviewer teased him a little about having a $700 million dollar film and not getting new shoes. PJ responded that they were his 'good luck' shoes and that they were comfortable, but a bit smelly. I expect him to wear them to the Academy Awards.

Cave Troll Spotted In Wellington!
Xoanon @ 12:44 pm EST

Ok, so we've posted pictures like these before, but this thing is so frikking cool I had to post these up as well!! Ringer Spy Ianman sends us these great pics, take a look!! [More]

There and back again ó a journey to middle earth
Calisuri @ 2:44 am EST

I thought I would share with theonering.net my experience on the Red Carpet Movie Tourís LOTR ultimate fantasy 12-day tour (http://www.redcarpet-tours.com). Iím on a small VIP tour of travel agents. Iíll send in updates as time and connectivity permit. This is the second installment. (Read the first installment here)

Feb 19th
We started out early on a beautiful sunny morning. We headed off to Matamata. Matamata is a fairly small town in NZís dairy country that also specializes in raising thoroughbred racehorses. Now they have another claim to fame, they are the closest town to the farm that became the shire. When you enter town, there is a sign that proclaims just that:

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We stopped and took pictures of the sign and the quaint main street around it. Then we piled back into our minivan, and headed for the actual farm. Red Carpet is one of the few tours that are allowed onto the farm where the filming took place. Unfortunately, do to some legal issues, we werenít allowed to take any pictures, but it was a fantastic experience all the same. First off the farm is beautiful in and of itself. It is a sheep farm, and picturesque flocks graze on rolling hills. You have to drive quite a ways into the farm to see the spots where the filming was done. When you get to the spot that was Hobbiton, the landscape is quite recognizable, even without the buildings and bridges. You get to see the pond, and the party tree, and try and imagine a lot of hobbits near them instead of sheep. The party tree is a magnificent feat of nature ó huge and old and beautiful. Seeing the spot where they filmed made me appreciate the work of Peter and his amazing team even more. Sure, the land is pretty, but it takes a team with vision and artistry to truly turn it into Middle Earth. On the way back to the main road, I snapped a quick shot of the countryside.

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We had lunch in Rotorua, and headed out for a non-LOTR event. We visited Hellís Gate, which claims to be the Rotoruaís most active thermal reserve, complete with mud baths. I must say it was pretty cool, lots of steam, lots of sulphur, and even some boiling mud. The sulphur in the steam was so intense, it tarnished all of my silver rings. Pretty amazing demonstration of chemistry and geology at work!

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Some of our party tried the mud baths, and then we headed back to Rotorua for dinner and to sleep for the night.

Tomorrow ó Huka Falls, Rangipo plains and Mt Ruapehu ó Mordor!

Joyful Fans at Brentanoís
Quickbeam @ 1:11 am EST

[View the Gallery]

If you can imagine more than 500 people standing outside in the nippy February air, in a very long queue that wound on forever; all of them being forced to wait for 6 or more hours with nothing but gruff security guards scowling at them and pesky T.V. cameras sniffing them up and down Ė and if you can imagine these people HAPPY.... just thrilled to endure all this for the chance to meet Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, and Sean Astin face-to-face, then youíve got a good picture of the reality. This past Monday these joyful fans swarmed the Century City Shopping Center in Los Angeles, and they didnít mind any gauntlet of evil they had to endure to get in.

The payoff was spectacular.

When folks finally got inside Brentanoís, they headed for the special seats that were set up in a comfortable nook of the store. Appropriately, it was the Fantasy/Sci-Fi section. Only the first fifty people from the front of the line were allowed in for the special Q&A Discussion, the rest had to wait outside while PJ and Company revealed many fascinating secrets!

These were very lucky fans, and they knew it. Keep in mind they were among the first to meet with the filmmaker since The Fellowship of the Ring was released in North America. They would be the first public audience giving him direct questions and feedback about the movie.

When the guests took their seats there was a riot of applause. Really unusual to hear that kind of noise in a quiet bookstore! You could feel tremendous energy in the room. PJ was likewise just as happy to be surrounded by so many Tolkien fans. His partner Fran had a glow about her that was unmistakable. Then again, Iíve met her before and she always has this magical Elf-like glow around her, but this time it was special. Philippa was looking smart and fresh, with a bright smile that would flash across her face every few minutes. As always, Sean was warm and genuine, the picture of laid-back comfort.... he still seemed to be in "Sam" mode. It was delicious to see them all sitting there.

And, no surprise here, PJ had all eyes on him! I mean, look, his film just received a stunning 13 Academy Award nominations just a week ago, and now he was sitting in front of the people who most wanted it for him. He was truly in his element.

Iím sure youíve already read the wonderful report from Rosie and Stef of the Official Fan Club Ė who presented some beautiful handmade artwork to the speakers. Very classy, very sweet gesture. The delightful Lia represented the store and moderated the event with aplomb. She took a variety of questions that fell somewhere between the drooling and the literate.

PJ talked with us about all this and more:

Storyboards were difficult to maintain early in the production, because certain sets were not yet constructed. Specific movements of characters had to be reworked for the camera AFTER the mini scale models were built, giving PJ an idea of how to storyboard the sequence all over again. [Revelation #1: Barbie dolls in Middle-earth costumes were used on the scale models to help plan camera movements. The "Gandalf" Barbie doll had strands of cotton balls for a beard!]

The reforging of Andúril (which everyone has been squawking about being absent from Fellowship) will be the first thing shown at the beginning of The Return of the King in 2003. It will be a great way to reintroduce Aragornís subplot and bring it center stage. [Revelation #2: PJ admitted he had a problem with how audiences would relate to a stern, serious Aragorn standing in Bree and dramatically pulling out a sword only to have it be a broken piece.... assuming they knew nothing of Tolkien, he might unintentionally get laughs.]

Plans have been made to have Sam and Frodo reunite in the summer. Sean Astin and Elijah Wood will head down to New Zealand for additional shooting in June. Other cast members may also be required for pick ups. [Revelation #3: Fran Walsh has scripted some brand new scenes for the hobbits that heretofore did not exist.]

Andy Serkis is a very busy Gollum these days. And that makes PJ even busier. After WETA is finished with their work, many hundreds of Gollum effects shots will be edited into the existing footage shot over a year ago. Mr. Serkis is actively involved in the motion-capture process, where his physical performance in a special optic suit is recreated with the Gollum effects, his unique voice to be added in later. [Revelation #4: Mr. Serkis has recently claimed that Gollum was "a Ring junkie" and he constantly needed his "fix."]

PJ had a unique problem with the Stone Street Studios being so close to the Wellington International Airport. Many days they had to stop shooting and wait for a plane to go roaring overhead. There was a special "look-out" person who sat up on a hill overlooking the airport and surrounding suburbs. She would sit there all day long, checking the skies and the runway to see if large jets were coming or going, then would radio down to the soundstages to clear the shot for the crew. [Revelation #5: Fran asserts that nearly 100% of the original actorís work had to be re-recorded later in ADR!]

The super special edition DVD is going to have plenty of material put back into the movie. Retailers plan to have a regular edition out in August, which will contain only the version of the film now playing theatrically.... but later in November/December a huge 4-disc edition will appear with about 30 minutes of additional story! PJ has also just finished recording the directorís commentary track. [Revelation #6: PJ admits that special scenes with Aragorn and Boromir will be included, as will the "gift giving" from Galadriel to the members of the Fellowship. Spontaneous applause broke out when we heard this! There will be lots more that PJ described as "good stuff."]

Many people directed questions to Sean about Samwise Gamgee, all of them raising the flag in support of my argument Ė that Sam is truly the most important and heroic character of the story. Sean has a wonderful way of downplaying everything. He had to gain 40 pounds or so to play the character, which he said "wasnít really so bad," and laughed.

Philippa took the last question, describing her satisfaction working with an open-minded creative team of writers and actors. She is an intensely smart woman, and she impressed the crowd with her descriptions of the collaborative process. When one of the young ladies gave her a beautiful portrait of the final parting of Sam and Frodo at the Grey Havens, she pointed at Sean and said, "Oh, just you wait until you see him in this scene, heís so completely brilliant!" Personally, it is the one cinematic moment that I am most looking forward above all others.

The four speakers then moved over to the signing table and got out their Sharpies. For the next two hours, they would sign many books, posters, t-shirts, VARIETY magazine ads, and even a mouse pad or two. A zillion happy fans filed through the store peacefully, all of them showering gratitude and compliments on the filmmakers.

I was the very last person to get up to the table. I shook PJís hand and gave him my large red leather edition of LOTR to sign. After such a long day he was still in excellent spirits and we had a warm, but all too brief, little chat. Iím still impressed with how calm and collected he is, even in the middle of this media frenzy that has exploded around him. Down at the end of the table I scooted up close to Fran and said good-bye.

When I looked inside my book later, this is what she wrote:

Hi Cliff Ė thanks for all your support Ė youíre the reason we made these movies: thank God for the FANS!
All the best,
Fran Walsh

And it couldnít be more true.

Much too hasty,

P.S. - Check out our rather large gallery of 30+ Images from the event. [Gallery]

P.P.S. Speaking of fans, what follows is a list of all TheOneRing.net fans who attended this special event.... we wanted to include all their names here on the site and so passed around a little black diary book down the entire queue. Here are all the people who signed:

Beth Case "deliz"
Diana Kellett "di"
Stephanie Newsome "Stef Baggins"
Nan Morris "Rosie Moderator" - LOTR Fan Club
Donna Harclerode 'Eridona' - LOTR Fan Club
Ingrio Aquino-g "ialegolas"
Rita Del Cid
Jessica Yeo "Eoweniel Starsley"
Catherine Frizat "Strider-Girl"
Angela Panamaroff
Kritina & Kim Morales
Sara Crowder - Las vegas
Jason Crowder - Las Vegas
Elizabeth Crowder - Las vegas
Douglas Dunning
Josh Rubinstein
Abra Mitchell
Mavra Reilly
Monica Huffman
Amalia Wortscheaftion
Steve Marine
Bill Wu
Yu Kailin
Larissa Smith
Chelsea Smith
Michelle E. Burgoyne
Kim Burgoyne
Lisa Gansky
Robin Hunter
Aileen Cho
Mike Waugh
Miguel Herrandez
Valerie Parker (grbggrl)
Ernest Membrere
Nikki Membrere
Aimee Nance
Lap Nhen Tnang
Stacy Tolbert
Janna Longworth
Irene Ochoq
Zena Kapsoff
Dave Hirsch
Jon Britton
Reggie McBride
Steve & Hiromi Gibbs
Keiko Kawanabe
Kyle Fukumoto
Jerry Guanzon
Marianne Minn
Jennifer Guthrie
Connor Kelly-Eiding
Colleen Kelly-Eiding
Melissa Cober
McKenna Kelly-Eiding
Erica Mer
Karen Felice
Mike Brennan
Nancy Brennan
Carol Chapin
Norman Lao
Alexandra Franklin
Chloe McCloskey
Simone McCloskey
Adrienne Herbst-Holmes
Dave Clary
Robert R. Legare
Adam R. Rakunas
William Salguero
Kim Wethe
Amanda Gillispie
Tom Flynn
Jake Flynn
Brett Shulman
Deborah Vaughn (dvaughn)
Michelle Ringler
Michael Bonitatis
Lord of the Fangs
Valarie Vogel
Daniel Kagan
Danielle Martell
Alanis J. Henson
Jill Pesayco
Maurice Daigle
Margaret Kingman
Cailey Hall
Helen Vera
Lois White
Colleen White
Allene Kim
Catherine Hur
Katherine Quan
Jenette Sovilla
Rebekah Sovilla
Rachel Sovilla
Hannah Sovilla
Elizabeth Sovilla
Diana Sovilla
Molly Sauerwald
Ann Zeller
Laura Monjoy
Denver & Jean Carter
Peggy DuVall
Julie DuVall
Maleine Simon
Marbir "The Wood-Elf"
Lotho Sacksville-Baggins (Danny)
Barry the Winkle (SmitGin)
sarah Stueland
Shon Encinas
Michael Bilach
Kate Cammack
Kamala, Nicole and Stephen Slight
Jessica Edwards
Matt Egan
Sara Martinez
Nick Pappas
Molly Walsh
Sean Kreycik
James Raleigh Campbell
Alex Martinez
Abe Aquino
Daniel Goodland
Darlene Levin
Samuel Levin
Kimberly Levin
Danielle Annanel
Lindsey Pruitt
Phil Juarez
Brian Harkins
John A. Zebieta
David Eaton
Angeza Crotts
Beatrice Bollon
Emily Podany
Molly Lewis
Louise Adler
Ben Bolton
Greg Bolton
Jerry Podany
Nicholas Podany
Josh Poslusny
Molly Minus
Mike Woltz
Elaine Cameron
Adriana Roze
David Roze
Steve Lainer

(Sorry to those of you who signed the book and do not see your name here. Some of the writing was not legible enough for us to actually attempt the name.)

Joyful Fans at Brentanoís - Gallery
Quickbeam @ 1:09 am EST

The full gallery from the Brentano's Bookstore event on February 18th 2002 in Los Angeles California. [ View the Written Report ]

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The first in Line
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The Crowders came all the way from Las Vegas
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The line stretches down the block
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Cathy and Sandra are lucky to get in to the discussion
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Peter Jackson and Mark Ordesky enter
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Grumpy Lady: "I liked the movie, until the end."
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The signing area
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Sean Astin, Peter Jackson, Phillipa Boyens, Fran Walsh
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This guy got his LOTR Cliff Notes signed
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Ted from TolkienOnline.com shows off his signed LOTR Cards
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Treebark gets his book signed
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2-21-02 Latest News

Sir Ian McKellen's Knight at Conversation's Roundtable Screen Actors Guild
Xoanon @ 5:41 pm EST

Awards nominated actor of stage, television, and screen, Sir Ian McKellen, will be featured in the February 27 Conversations event in Hollywood.

McKellen helped bring to life a Tolkien treasure with his stirring performance as Gandalf the Grey in, "Lord Of The Rings: Fellowship of the Ring." He celebrated his 40th anniversary as an actor this past September with a return to Broadway in "Dance of Death."

McKellen is a celebrated theatre actor, honored with more than thirty international awards for his performances on stage and on screen. He won the Tony Award for Salieri in Peter Shaffer's "Amadeus" (1981); the Emmy as best supporting actor in HBO's "Rasputin" (1996); he was European Actor of the Year for his screen "Richard III" (1996) and was nominated for an Academy Award as James Whale in "Gods and Monsters" (1999).

Conversations is a national member-to-member speaker series designed to educate and motivate SAG members on how to sustain their passion for acting, the value of training, education and self-sufficiency. The series features high profile members sharing their experience and knowledge of the industry with their SAG colleagues.

Conversations is RSVP only for SAG members in good standing. No Admission without reservations. For more information, check the Conversations web page or dial the Conversations Hotline (323) 549-6668.

Christoher Lee To Attend 'BIFF'
Xoanon @ 12:00 pm EST

Guybrush Threepwood writes: Just wanted to let you know that Christopher Lee will be in Belgium for the Brussels International Festival of Fantasy, Thriller and Science Fiction Film (15 - 30 march 2002). He will be a member of the international jury and should be in the theatre with the public, watching some movies (Oh my... I want an autograph!!!)... You can check the information at http://www.bifff.org

It says: "This gaunt, handsome, deep-voiced British actor is one of the icons of the horror film industry. With his imposing presence he has played many villainous roles, his most famous being the bloodthirsty Count Dracula opposite suave, aristocratic Peter Cushing as Professor Van Helsing in the Hammer horror films. The towering, sharp featured actor has also incarnated the classic "yellow peril," Fu Manchu, in five films and was a James Bond villain in The Man With the Golden Gun. Lee has also demonstrated a flair for comedy, playing a Nazi officer in Steven Spielbergís 1941 and a genetic scientist in Gremlins 2: The New Batch. Age has only added to his screen charisma, which he has demonstrated in recent years with parts in Tim Burtonís Sleepy Hollow, the TV series of Mervyn Peakeís Ghormenghast and, of course, in Peter Jacksonís magical adaptation of Tolkienís Lord of the Rings. Weíre proud to welcome this movie legend as a member of our International Jury."

-Guybrush Threepwood, the swashbuckling pirate who can hold his breath for ten minutes...

Live In NYC? Wanna Meet Jim Rygiel?
Xoanon @ 11:34 am EST

From: Shana

I'm on the mailing list list of the American Museum of the Moving Image in Queens, NY, and they just sent me a message that contains the following:

"On Thursday, February 28 at 7:00 p.m., the Museum is especially pleased to present a Pinewood Dialogue with one of the key creative figures behind THE LORD OF THE RINGS. Coming all the way from New Zealand, Visual Effects Supervisor Jim Rygiel will present behind-the-scenes footage, and discuss the creation of the remarkable epic, and the upcoming films in the trilogy.

Rygiel is one of the pioneers of digital visual effects in film, with credits including STARSHIP TROOPERS, THE LAST STARFIGHTER, GHOST, ALIEN III, SPECIES, OUTBREAK, BATMAN RETURNS, and 102 DALMATIONS. Special thanks to New Line Cinema for making this program possible. (Tickets: $20 public, $14 for Museum members).

"More information about Moving Image screenings + programs can be found on our Web site. http://www.ammi.org/site/screenings/index.html."

Tolkien Talk At Yale
Xoanon @ 11:24 am EST

The42ndGuy writes: Hi there TORN! Sending along a report on a Tolkien event at my school.

On Wed. 20 February, Prof. Edward James, a medievalist at the UK's University of Reading, gave a lecture on "Tolkien and the Middle Ages" at Yale University. There weren't enough seats in the hall for the over 100 people present-- many latecomers, including me, had to sit in the aisles.

Prof. James's talk focused on Tolkien's work on "Beowulf" as it related to "The Lord of the Rings." I missed the first half, but it seems to have been about Tolkien's "Beowulf" work ("The Monsters and the Critics," etc.) and his conception of power, since James referred back to that concept several times without explaining it in detail.

As I walked in, James was talking about Tolkien's Catholicism as revealed in his fiction. He discussed Frodo as a Christ figure, lembas as the Eucharist, and so forth; these kinds of references, James said, were subtle but pervasive, and only began to strike him after he recently read Tolkien's letters, which talk about his faith's impact on his fiction several times. These subtleties James contrasted with Narnia, which James said Tolkien called privately "as bad as they could possibly be"-- a quote I hadn't heard before, and quite a strong one at that!

James concluded by talking about Tolkien's work, both academic and fantastic, as a coherent whole. First, he described one critic's frustration with "Beowulf" for having (I paraphrase throughout in these quotes) "irrelevancies in the center and all the interesting parts on the periphery." This critic was talking specifically about the story of Ingeld, who was Hrothgar's old enemy and the kind of duty-bound, vengeful hero this critic preferred to Beowulf: "the story of Ingeld would be worth far more than acres and acres of dragons." (My thought: Tolkien loved "green great dragons" so much... he can't have appreciated that!) Tolkien, James said, loved "Beowulf," and used most of its narrative strategies, such as including peripheral detail that richens the story by reference and gives it resonance. Ingeld serves that kind of purpose in "Beowulf"; in Tolkien the many references to his legendarium do the same. James quoted one reviewer who asked, "Who could possibly care about the cats of Queen Beruthiel?" His reply: everyone cares, of course, but since there's no answer it makes the world all the more realistic. And in fact, Ingeld does show up in "The Lord of the Rings," after a fashion: Aragorn's name, in early drafts, was Ingold. For Tolkien, James said, his fiction was a way of appreciating medieval literature, and a more flexible one than scholarly publication would allow: he could, for example, speculate about how the Anglo-Saxon cavalry would look in a novel. Far from a diversion from his scholarly work, as many of his colleagues and critics claimed, writing his fiction was its culmination.

Questions from the floor dealt with everything from Tolkien's relations with C.S. Lewis to the Englishness of the Shire to one woman's suggestion that the Dwarves seemed Jewish. The last point was a piece of speculation I hadn't heard before, and not entirely without merit: the phrase "Baruk khazad, khazad ai-meinu" sounds like Hebrew, they live largely as a diaspora hiding their native language, they are seen by others as a people apart and foreign. James responded with interest, telling the well-known story of Tolkien's response to the German publisher who wanted to check on his racial background; but that discussion was speculative and brief, since the questioner was not a devoted Tolkienite and Prof. James knew no Hebrew.

The response afterwards was enthusiastic. It was great to see a gathering of students and professors alike to hear Tolkien discussed seriously, as he deserves.

Peter Jackson On KTLA
Xoanon @ 11:11 am EST

Valerie writes:

Peter Jackson was interviewed on the KTLA news that morning (Monday, Feb 18th). Most of the interview consisted of the generic questions that we've seen in all the other interviews (he wasn't wearing shoes, but I have a feeling they may have told him not to as every time they promoted the interview that morning they discussed whether or not he'd be wearing them), but there was one thing I thought was worth noting. Sam Rubin (the Entertainment Reporter) asked Peter if he could give some kind of info on the next movie. He said that TTT will start about 12 hrs. after the story in FOTR ends. Peter also stated that there won't be any kind of refresher of FOTR because they're going to assume that everyone has already seen that movie.

For Your Consideration
Xoanon @ 10:37 am EST

moocholas sends along this cover from Variety Magazine (Feb 18-24)


"Made with intelligence, imagination, passion and skill. Propulsively paced and shot through with and aged-in-oak sense of wonder, the film so thrillingly catches us up in its sweeping story that nothing matters but the vivid and compelling events unfolding on the screen." [More]

Fellowship Hopes to Turn Oscars Into Middle Earth
Xoanon @ 10:13 am EST

World Entertainment News Network

The cast and crew of LORD OF THE RINGS: FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING are planning to make OSCARS night 2002 extra special by conjuring up a "big surprise."

The movie's costume and make-up expert RICHARD TAYLOR, who was nominated for three of the film's 13 Oscar nods on Tuesday, admits the crew are considering what to do to turn the awards show into a Middle Earth extravaganza.

He says, "We're still coming to terms with the achievement of picking up 13 nominations but I know ELIJAH (WOOD) and the stars and PETER (JACKSON) will want to do something special on the night.

"We might all turn up in costume or ride up on horseback. I'm sure it will be a big surprise."

Wanna Work For WETA?
Xoanon @ 10:08 am EST

WETA Digital

Interested in relocating to New Zealand to work on 'The Lord of the Rings'?

We are currently recruiting in the following areas for the second film of this exciting trilogy: Senior Texture Artists, Senior Modellers, Senior Technical Directors, Senior Animators, Motion Editors. To apply, visit our website: www.wetafx.co.nz and fill in our online application.

Please send your reels and resumes to: Weta Digital 9 - 11 Manuka Street PO Box 15-208 Miramar Wellington (no post code) New Zealand

Contact Information
Please send Demo Reel/Samples/Cover Letter via Mail/E-

Mail to:
911 Manuka St.
PO Box 15-208 Miramar
New Zealand
Job Phone: 718-853-5665

Video Clips From The 'PJ' Cricket Match!
Xoanon @ 1:56 am EST

Ringer Spy Andrew sends along these great video clips (Quicktime) from the cricket match where PJ got the crowd all wired up and recorded their voices!

Peter got them to speak the dark language of Mordor, stamp their feet, and yell really loud!

2-20-02 Latest News

Lord of Rings Crowned Box Office King
Xoanon @ 11:10 pm EST

By Larisa Naumenko

After blockbusting performances in the United States and Europe, "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring" has continued its triumphant march into Russia, setting new box office records across the country.

Since it opened in Russia on Feb. 7, the three-hour screen version of J.R.R. Tolkien's classic fantasy has grossed more than 104.7 million rubles ($3.4 million) and been seen by nearly 1 million people, according to a report Tuesday by Karo Premier Film Company, the movie's distributor in Russia.

"This is a movie for the ages," said Roman Isayev, a deputy director at Karo. "The anticipation preceding the movie was something else."

The previous box office record in Russia was $3.05 million, set by "The Mummy Returns" over 172 days last year, Isayev said. "The Lord of the Rings" eclipsed that mark in just 11 days.

Worldwide, "The Lord of the Rings" has earned about $700 million at the box office, Isayev said.

Official box office figures have only been compiled in Russia since early 1999, Isayev said. Before that "Titanic" was estimated to be the highest grossing movie in Russia, earning about $5 million in 1998, he said.

"The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring" is the first of three movies by director Peter Jackson based on Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy -- unusually, director Peter Jackson filmed the movies simultaneously.

The next two installments in the trilogy, "The Two Towers" and "The Return of the King," are slated for release later this year and next year.

Isayev ascribed the success of "The Lord of the Rings" to the interest shown in it by Tolkien fans across the country and also to the massive amount of publicity the movie received in the run-up to its Russian premiere.

Although "The Lord of the Rings" has been showing in some 20 cinemas in Moscow and more than 50 cinemas across the rest of the country, cinema managers say they have struggled to meet demand.

"I haven't seen anything like this before," said Dmitry Baulin, manager at the America Cinema, where the movie has been shown in English with a Russian translation via headphones. "We even had more people come in the second week than in the first."

The America Cinema has put on one to three screenings daily, with tickets costing up to 400 rubles.

"People were willing to pay any money for the tickets, which were quickly sold out," Baulin said. "Some were even willing to stand in the aisle when no seats were left."

According to Isayev, tickets to the official premiere of the movie at the Pushkin cinema cost 300 rubles but were resold for as much as 2,500 rubles.

Other cinemas experienced similarly high demand.

Natalya Gavrilova, a manager at the Karo Film cinema, said that in the first four days, tickets for all the cinema's eight daily screenings were gone by 1 p.m. A manager at Kodak Cinema World said screenings have been sold out on both weekends since the movie opened and that scalping was taking place, although the cinema's management has tried to prevent it.

Cinema-goer Alexei Kuznetsov said that on the Sunday after the movie opened he could not get tickets for any screening at the Pyat Zvyozd cinema even though he arrived at noon. He ended up going to Kodak Cinema World and buying tickets six hours in advance. Kuznetsov added that 250 ruble tickets were being scalped for about 500 rubles.

By Tuesday there were no longer huge lines outside Kodak Cinema World or the Pushkin cinema for afternoon screenings, but managers at both cinemas said they still sell out evening showings.

The huge popularity of the movie has also boosted interest in Tolkien's books.

Valeria Petrichenko, a 20-year-old student who helped set up an online Tolkien fan club (www.tolkien.ru), said she has noticed many new visitors on the web site.

"They said they liked the movie and asked where they could find the book online," she said.

Petrichenko, who unlike many Tolkien fans doesn't have a nickname derived from her idol's works, thought it only natural that people were showing more interest in the books after seeing the movie.

"Tolkien has created an amazingly charming world where people have been able to see what they haven't been able to find in the real world," she said. "People have found a world that they can live in. It's a fairy tale, of course, but a lot there is very relevant to people's relationships in the real world."

A Tolkien fan since she first read "The Lord of the Rings" at age 11, Petrichenko thought the movie was good but not as enjoyable as the book.

Natalya Lagunova, another long-time fan of Tolkien, started a Russian-language web site dedicated to the movie
(www.fan.theonering.net/henneth-annun) as early as 1999, when she learned Jackson had begun shooting it.

Lagunova read the first part of "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy in Russian as a college student in 1985. She got hold of the second part five years later and then read the third part in English. She credits this with helping her learn English well enough to pursue postgraduate studies in the United States. She ended up staying for seven years, started a family and gave birth to twins.

Lagunova was among a group of Tolkien fans who helped the movie's distributor when "The Lord of the Rings" was being dubbed. The group came up with a list of recommendations for the movie's translation, based on five different translations of the book that exist in Russian.

Lagunova said that the group's main task was not to irritate Tolkien fans with inappropriate translations.

"We were even trying to consider Tolkien's recommendations on the pronunciation of Elfish names," she said.

Like Petrichenko, Lagunova thought there were some glitches in the final dubbed version of the movie and was very disappointed with the way the main character, Frodo, was dubbed.

Nevertheless, she considers the movie to be a huge cinematic event, especially for Tolkien fans.

"The movie has impressed me -- I love it and criticize it all the same," she said. "I have seen it five times and will be watching again."

Media Watch: Make Up Artist Magazine
Xoanon @ 7:18 pm EST

Ringer Spy MAX_BLAST sends us these scans from the latest issue of 'Make Up Artist Magazine'. Take a look, you can see what the wraith's hands look like without their gauntlets, and LOTR make up artists working on Lawrence Makoare (Lurtz), Christopher Lee (Saruman) and John Rhys-Davies (Gimli)!

There and Back Again - a Journey to Middle-earth
Tehanu @ 3:14 am EST

Super Ringer Frodo's girl checks in after her first day in NZ where she's joined a tour that will take her to LOTR film locations.

"I thought I would share with TheOneRing.net my experience on the Red Carpet Movie Tourís LOTR "Ultimate Fantasy" 12-day tour. Iím on a small VIP tour. Iíll send in updates as time and connectivity permit.

"Iíll start with day one of my trip Ė which is actually more like day one, two and three. For those of you that donít know, getting to New Zealand is a bit of a long haul. Most flights from the states start with flying from where ever you live to L.A., and then taking off from L.A. around 10 or 11pm and flying for 12 or 13 hours to Auckland. Besides the length of the trip you cross the international date line, so you take off on one day and end up landing in Auckland in the morning two days later. From Europe the trip is even longer, requiring a long flight to L.A. or Singapore, and then another to Auckland.

"Feb 16th & 18th
I used to travel internationally quite a bit for business and I had already made a similar flight, that time to Melbourne, so I was more or less prepared for the extensive journey. This time, however, I was going to find Middle-earth. I was headed on a trip to find my heart and soul. A heart and soul that I had left somewhere between the Shire and Rivendell in my younger years at a time in my life when I understood how the magic of the heart works, and knew that friendship and determination can get you through anything.

"I took off from Seattle on the afternoon of Feb 16th and headed down to LAX. Since it is summer in this part of the world, flights are very full and ours was overbooked. However, the flight was smooth and fairly uneventful. I did have the added bonus that one of the movies they showed was bandits, so I got my Cate Blanchett fix (is she amazing or what?). I saw a beautiful sunrise near the end of the flight.

"Vic James of Red Carpet Movie Tours picked me up at the airport and dropped me off at my hotel (I have a few extra days here on either end of the tour). I decided to take it pretty easy for the rest of the day. Tomorrow, Vic will pick me up bright and early at 8am and we will head to Matamata Ė site of Hobbiton."

2-19-02 Latest News

LOTR Gets Oscar Boost At Box Office
Strider @ 5:48 pm EST

Brandon Gray

Fueled by its 13 Oscar nominations, "The Lord of the Rings" enjoyed a 38% bump-up to an estimated $5.0 million this weekend (Feb. 15-17), though the five new releases kept it in 11th place. "Rings'" improvement was all the more impressive given how many people have already seen it. Oscar usually benefits the little seen movies the most, but "Rings'" surge was better than fellow Best Picture nominees "A Beautiful Mind" (up 35%), "Gosford Park" (up 30%) and would have been better than "In the Bedroom" (up 47%) had that picture not increased its theater count by 36%.

After 61 days, "Rings" has pulled in $277.9 million.

"Rings'" New Line Cinema stable mate "John Q" took the top spot with an estimated $20.6 million, while Britney Spears' big screen debut "Crossroads" rode into 2nd place with an estimated $14.6 million.

4-day studio estimates for the long Presidents Day weekend will be issued Monday. Actual 3- and 4-day numbers will be released Tuesday evening.

Weekend Chart:

Mad Magazine Does LOTR
Xoanon @ 10:13 am EST

From: Peregrin T

I just wanted to let you know that my daughter pulled out the Mad 2002 XL edition, and they have Oscar jokes featuring LOTR and others...the reference to Cleveland Browns fans as orcs was particularly funny...since I am a Steeler fan. I also wanted to let you know that I have an article on Tolkien and LOTR coming out on March 21 in Point of Light magazine.

2-18-02 Latest News

What Goes Into Hobbit Garden?
Xoanon @ 4:04 pm EST

Kristine writes:

The Feb/Mar 2002 issue of Garden Design magazine features a short news piece on gardening for LOTR:FOTR.

"Where Hobbits Lived and Gardened" interviews greensmaster Brian Massey, and includes some nice photos of Samwise Gamgee's hobbit hole, which "springs alive with nasturtiums, cosmos and sunflowers."

Massey says he "and his army of greensmen were told not to make the hobbit gardens look too 'twee,' which means too cute or fairytaleish. For the rolling hills, the greensmen sowed green rye and other grasses. Outside the hobbit holes, they planted sprawling nasturtium and jasmine, bright sunflowers and cheery cosmos."

Weekend Round Up
Xoanon @ 12:25 am EST

The Decipher World Cup 2002

IGN FilmForce's Oscar Picks

Toy Fair 2002 Day Two Report

Chicago Sun-Times Poll A Bit...Iffy

Bruce Wilis Long Time Fan Of LOTR

Oscar Shines and Britney Dazzles This Week

Spy Report From TT Sound Test At NZ Cricket Match

FOTR Japanese Ticket Prices

Lord of the Gambles

Hall Of Fire Chats For February 16th & 17th

Seattle Thanks TORN

Another 'Signlanguage' Report

Media Watch: Marie-Claire Magazine -UPDATED-

'Lord of the Rings' Is Big Nominee for This Year's Oscars

Just WHEN Will The LOTR:FOTR DVD Be Released?

TTT: PJ Makes A Noise! -UPDATED-

Media Watch: Entertainment Weekly

From Sheffield To Middle-Earth

All Orlando, All The Time

Media Watch: The UK Observer

Is It In?

Decipher LOTR Fanclub Mailing Update

Live In Sydney? Wanna Meet Jim Rygiel?

From Hobbits To Zombies

Extra Slams The Sting In The Ring

Media Watch: Big Hit Magazine

Media Watch: Design Graphics Magazine
Xoanon @ 12:06 am EST

From: Raz

I found this article in the latest Design Graphics magazine, an Australian design and graphics magazine. It's very short, but it has a few interesting statistics about the number of visual effects there are in the films. There's also what looks like a shot of the Pillars of Argonath before they became the pillars.

2-17-02 Latest News

Media Watch: Big Hit Magazine
Xoanon @ 11:40 pm EST

Ringer Spy Artemis sends along these scans of the LOTR cast doing the meet and greet tour around the world.

Decipher LOTR Fanclub Mailing Update
Jincey @ 3:27 pm EST

We've all be anxiously awaiting the official Decipher [Lord of the Rings Fan Club] Membership Portfolios and Decipher sent along some information about the delay.

"All the membership portfolio components are ready to go except one - the actual packing material. The previous designs (there have been more than a couple) that had been done for us failed our robustness quality tests, especially when it came to protecting the corners of the membership lithographs and keeping them flat and bend free. The latest failure was quite disappointing to us, as we thought we were there.

We have a new design in test, which is meeting corner protection expectations so far. We are awaiting its return to us through the mail. If successful, we should have our supply of these packing components filled next week, and our assembly of pieces and mail-out can begin immediately after that.

We are already tooled up to work around the clock and weekends to fulfill all mailings as soon as this packing component is obtained. And we are working on some additional secondary mailing plans just in case this latest packaging does not pass muster.

I understand this is of little consolation, but this has been a frustrating experience for us also, as we have some great product sitting here, and we just want to get it into the hands of the fans! But at the same time we are committed to providing the best protection for these high-quality lithographs that we can, as we understand that nothing would be more frustrating than receiving damaged goods after such a wait."

It is nice to know the good folks at Decipher are taking such care to ensure the integrity of the items for us, so be patient : )

Media Watch: The UK Observer
Xoanon @ 3:16 pm EST

Tim here from Liverpool. Today's Observer features an interview with Ian McKellen. Since I don't have a scanner, I have transcripted the article or rather most of it, since the final paragraph focuses on domestic affairs (Princess Margaret's death and Sir Ian's recount of an encounter with her)and is of less interest for fellow Ringers.

"A WORLD UNDER HIS SPELL" - An Oscar-nominee for his portrayal of Gandalf, happily in love and looking forward to a stint on US TV, Ian McKellen has achieved a perfect balance of personal and professional contentment (by Euan Ferguson)

There are terribly kind eyes, especially for a face so absurdly prepossessing. They can do hard, they can do jealous, they can do pathetic or murderous, but in repose they do kind, with hints of something else - a rare intelligence, certainly, an, perhaps, a certain pain. In the face of Gandalf the Grey, however, Tolkien's most complex creation, brought to life by McKellen in a performance now oscar-nominated, the hints behind the kindness are of dangers and magic and mischief, and uncertainty, and watching the result managed, slightly, to shock McKellen himself. "When I saw the film I didn't always think it was me, which is an extraordinary thing for an actor to say. You're normally so busy concentrating on your own performance, analysing this and that, that you never see the wider picture, but suddenly I forgot it was me and began to find the whole thing moving, which is highly unusual." Sir Ian McKellen, 62, grand knight of British theatre, and.

now, beloved icon of a generation of LOTR devotees, is a happy man. Able at last to pick and choose his Hollywood roles, financially cushioned, in a relationship for the past 14 months with a New Zealand man which has brought him "great joy", and now unashamedly delighted at his Academy nomination -

"Well, yes it does matter to me, because I would like to win an Oscar" - he must, I suggest, be in a fine mood these days. He grins, the fleshly planes softly transforming into a different face. "Yes, yes. I suppose I am. For once, everything's just...dandy." And yet, he never really knew, he says. Until the first showing of "Fellowship of the Ring", nominated for 13 oscars and a riotous box-office success, he didn't really know what he had done, what he had helped make. "No, I didn't. I really didn't. A film is finished before there's any audience, obviously, and the actors never get to meet them, to gauge reaction. That's why, by the way, you can always pick out stage actors at the Oscars, for instance: they know how to walk. Movie actors are the ones who have trouble negotiating the steps because they're used to the close-up. So I was aware, at least, that we were doing something which was eagerly anticipated, which was good in its way, at least some people were going to want to see it, even though they might en masse take against the translation and interpretation. And I suppose I was aware it might make a big impact because the movie was big, in every possible way. A year, and more, out of our lives, which is little for me but a lifetime when you're 18. And yet, well, we were filming sometimes in an old paint factory.

No heating, no air-conditioning, no sound-proofing, right next to Wellington Airport. Every take was preceded by a conversation between the assistant director and air traffic control, letting us know we had 3 minutes to get the shot. Every word of the film has been dubbed, though you'd never know. And when I saw the first versions of the effects, I thought, oh my God, not good. And the sound was quite ropey. And I thought, do you know, maybe we're just making the most expensive home movie in history. do these Kiwis really know what they're doing?

Well, it's easy to underestimate someone who doesn't wear shoes and who's only got two shirts and they're both the same colour and never cuts his hair. Peter Jackson doesn't look like a major director who can organise vast troops. He looks like... a hobbit. But a major director is exactly what he is, and he did it with massive equanimity and humour and devotion. So I should have known it would be all right, but I didn't, not until I saw it complete. So it came out, and it took off, and there was all that worldwide popularity and acclaim, and that doesn't necessarily translate into oscars, and does it matter if it does or doesn't? I think it does. You see these Brits being interviewed, being so understated, saying it's nice to be given a pat on the back I suppose, or oh the old Oscars, gosh is it that time again, I had no idea? Well, if you worked in America, that's what they do. It's a big, big thing, and if they've decided at this stage to say the film we enjoyed most, the film we thought best, as professionals, was LOTR, then isn't that good, shouldn't we celebrate? And it's sort of value rewarded for those Kiwis and their enterprise, and all of us who joined in on what could have been an absolute midcap disaster. And good luck to New Zealand for believing, for the film was new zealand or a year, we were the biggest employer in the land. They put us on the stamps, do you know? On the 40-cent stamps. me and christopher Lee. and then, for the opening of the film, the government changed Wellington's name overnight, all the signposts were changed, and the place became Middle-Earth: well, isn't that adorable?" He fell for the country rather heavily, he says, and worried, towards the end, whether he would find it difficult to come home. "It's not just the environment, though that does something to your head, and sense of history. There have only been human beings there for 800 years. It really was the garden of eden. there were no predators. the bloody birds forgot how to fly - they walked. and you discover a culture which is extremely relaxed and liberal. in terms of sexuality, well, although gays are not quite on the streets and in the papers in the same way, you find the most forward-looking and easy partnerships - two men, even three men, bringing up children together, which is quite at odds with the idea that New Zealand is repressive, some version of Fifties Britain. And i suppose, now I'm back, if it's changed me it's made me think that labels are dangerous things because they limit. even to call someone "gay" isn't enough. What I've learnt, partly because of the way liberation is done in NZ, is that saying "I'm gay" or "I'm straight" or "gay rights" is an awful simplification. There are degrees in all the possiblities for all sorts of relationships that are inhibited by old long-standing concepts of how society is organised."

McKellen famously came out in 1988 during a radio conversation with Peregrine Wortshorne, and went on to co-found the gay rights group Stonewall. Why, in retrospect, had it taken him so long, given that he was in the world of acting, at a time when closet doors were swinging open everywhere? "I'm the guy who gets cowed by authority. Which means you resent authority but you don't necessarily fight it. i do feel i should have spoken sooner, yes. suddenly a huge weight dropped. all that stuff with parents' friends, you know - "why is so-and-so 45 and still not married?""Oh, it's just because he hasn't met the right girl"- and I didn't quite lie but didn't quite tell the truth. deep down i was ashamed of the fact that i wasn't normal, i didn't think i was normal. in 1969, i was breaking the law in edinburgh; it was still an offence for two men to make love; i was a criminal. and if your instinct is to be accepted, and yet you think yourself odd, then you find yourself lying. But this has made sense to me only over the past 15 years. and now i can go on to David Letterman, as I did recently and answer about Christmas, saying I had a very pleasant time with my boyfriend, and it's unchallenged!

but currently, there's maybe less with politics. it's the problem with being happy. i'm currently a bit inward looking, concentrating on being happy myself rather than telling everyone how as a nation we should organise, and if i was on a march at the moment I would be saying to everyone.. be honest to each other. admit there are limitless possibilities in relationships, and love as many people as you canm in whatever way you want, and get rid of your inhibitions, and we'll all be happy - but how do you put that into legislation?" Coming from a new age proselytist, it would sound faintly ludicrous. Coming from the knight, the thrilling Coriolanus and perhaps the best Macbeth of the last century, his mobile face suddenly rigid with sincerity, it makes a certain sense. as in fact, in did coming from Tolkien. But how, I wondered, would McKellen have squared today's world, and today's freedoms, with the Thirties of Tolkien - a fine peaceful conservative world, rich with myth and beauty and dire inequity and rank bigotry? "A lovely world, in ways, and what a brilliant man. but you couldn't expect a gay man to say things were better then. there was total repressive misery, and for other minorities, too. and the other thing that's right at the heart of this story, the great story, is class. the relationship between frodo and sam is completely that of master and gardener, with Tolkien playing on what he must have encountered in the trenches of the First World War. it was interesting that Peter cast two Americans in the roles who, between them, weren't very interested in the class thing; they seem to be in the movie just to be mates. i think if i'd been directing i'd have been examining that - but in a way the rest of the world mightn't have been particularly interested in. but then, when you set out to write a myth, myths have resonances beyond the intentions of the author. so we even had the situation where gays were saying to Peter: "You are going to understand that sam and frodo are in love, you know, they're always hugging and kissing and sleeping together" - and you've got to say, yeah, but you can go too far. sex really isn't on the agenda in middle-earth." And gay sex? "God no. life as a gay man in middle-earth would have been miserable, sort of unthinkable. although i was suggesting to peter yesterday he should insert some love interest for Gandalf in a later one. he suggested galadriel... i said, no, i was thinking more of someone like legolas. oh god, Euan, put that in an ironic typeface or something, for the Americans." although , he does love them, the Americans, and is about to become more beloved by them, when he guest-hosts Saturday Night Live. that's not such a departure for those who have followed his stage career. "I love doing comedy, i'm always doing comedy. and you can't play hamlet unless you're a good comedian. macbeth opens with a joke." (.....)

He waves, warmly, and is off. Off through his archway, via middle-earth, to the strangest land of all: to Hollywood.

Ardan Nights
Berendir @ 3:15 pm EST

Thanks to Vildar for sending us word on the Ardan Nights project.

Ardan Nights, the guild dedicated to bringing Middle-Earth to Neverwinter Nights have launched their website at http://www.ardan-nights.org.

The project describe themselves as follows:
With the ending of the Middle-Earth project by Sierra, many devoted fans have voiced ideas on creating our own version of Middle-Earth; one that holds as close as possible to the now ended version of ME and JRR Tolkien's books. One of the responses has been to utilize Neverwinter Nights to create the game we desire. This "guild" is to further that ambition.

The project's message boards are also available at
http://boards.ardan-nights.org and they have an irc server running at irc.ardan-nights.org. Join #ArdanNights once you've connected.

All Orlando, All The Time
Xoanon @ 2:43 pm EST

From: Hedwig

"Gorgeous, undeniably well dressed, and one of the future's biggest stars."

There was an article in The Times Magazine's British Fashion Special February 16th citing Orlando Bloom as a future 'Style icon for British men'.

The gist of the article was that David Beckham (England football [soccer] captain) is the solitary role model for British men's fashion and they were listing the other men that could, should (and will in Orlando's case) come up to join Beckham in flying the flag for British Fashion.

Orlando was mentioned under the title "Too Cool for School. When a cool job coincides with restraint and good taste"..."It can also help if you've had a cool girlfriend who can give you a few tips. Jarvis Cocker, Paul Weller, Dan Macmillan and Jefferson Hack score high in the style stakes, but don't have a big enough profile. Perhaps the answer is Orlando Bloom. Gorgeous, undeniably well dressed, and one of the future's biggest stars. With three Lord of the Rings movies and Black Hawk Down under his belt, over the next year he will be an international household name."

And since Orlando is proving very popular, being mentioned as a 'Hot Thing to look out for in 2002' by both The Sunday Times Style Magazine and Elle Magazine (and probably countless others i haven't read) and having his name mentioned in 23103 results in an MSN search the last time I checked, the future is looking very bright for this elf-boy! As Orlando himself said when asked 'How does it feel to be called "the sexy elf?"..."I'll take it. It sounds good to me."

Media Watch: Entertainment Weekly
Xoanon @ 2:27 pm EST

Ringer Spy Treebeard sends along these scans from the February 22nd issue of Entertainment Weekly.

2-15-02 Latest News

LOTR Valentine's Day Box Office
Strider @ 7:07 pm EST

Brandon Gray

"The Lord of the Rings" wasn't the favorite date movie on Valentine's Day as it fell back down to No. 8, and the teen melodrama "A Walk to Remember" jumped up from No. 11 to No. 4 on a 280% increase. "Rings" was no slouch, though. It enjoyed a 75% bump-up on Thursday to $638,000. lifting its 58-day total to $272.934 million and dwarfing the Mandy Moore movie's $32.041 million total if it's any consolation. "I Am Sam" and "Rollerball" (what the... ?) were the other two movies to get a Valentine's jump over "Rings."


Two Towers Footage On Access Hollywood?
Strider @ 5:46 pm EST

From Pelvidar:

Hi there, love your site. A co-worker came in today and informed me that while he was on the phone last night he saw Peter Jackson on Access Hollywood and they were showing footage of The Two Towers that was going to appear at the end of Fellowship Of The Ring once they replace that last reel.

Of course this co-worker was idiotic enough NOT to hang up the phone immediately and pay his full attention to this interview, so the details were sparse, but I thought you might want to know about this, in case there are any leads you can follow in figuring out exactly what was reported.

TTT: Frodo & Sam In Emyn Muir?
Xoanon @ 2:43 pm EST

This flashback goes all the way to some of our earliest images ever posted in our scrapbook.

Woman's Weekly Magazine posted a handful of exclusive images from the LOTR set. These few were taken with Elijah Wood (Frodo) and Sean Astin (Sam) walking alone along rocky terrain which can only be either Emyn Muir or Mordor. !!Spoilers!!

Sam and Frodo in Mordor

Filming with PJ

Orcs on Break

The Elf and Orc

The Men of Gondor

The Burden is heavy

Taking a Break

Sam and Frod in Mordor

Noms cashing in at B.O.
Xoanon @ 1:22 pm EST

With nearly three-fourths of the (American) school kids and many U.S. workers off Monday, it's no wonder distribs will unspool a whopping five wide releases over the Presidents Day weekend.

Openers include Bruce Willis starrer "Hart's War," tooner "Return to Never Land," Britney Spears' debut "Crossroads," youthful laffer "Super Troopers" and family drama "John Q." Arnold Schwarzenegger starrer "Collateral Damage," the No. 1 pic last weekend, still reps the most notable action title in its soph sesh.

Meanwhile, some current players could see considerable new B.O. life this weekend after fetching notable Oscar noms Tuesday.

Perhaps the best positioned among them are Miramax's "In the Bedroom" and USA Films' "Gosford Park," both nominees for best picture. Both started as limited-release arthouse titles, whose growing popularity has allowed crossover to commercial venues via platformed expansions.

"Bedroom" will broaden to 1,000 playdates on Friday. "Park" will park in one more theater than last weekend at 837, and a more ambitious further expansion is expected in subsequent frames.

"We're shooting for 1,200 on Feb. 22," USA distrib chief Jack Foley noted.

Best pic nominees "A Beautiful Mind" from Universal/Imagine and "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring" from New Line are sure to get a B.O. boost this weekend, even though both are well into wide-release runs. But 20th Century Fox's "Moulin Rouge" won't get a theatrical bounce from its best pic nom, as the musical is already available on homevideo.

Commenting on the wide variety of openers, Dan Marks, exec VP at box office tracker ACNielsen EDI, said, "The distributors have done a very good job this year of varying the type of pictures they're sending out. That could allow individual pictures to see good business."

"It's a real nice family weekend that's always been terrific (for moviegoing) with school out in so many areas," observed Chuck Viane, distrib topper at the Mouse House.

New Line's "John Q," a controversial yarn about health care issues, reps the best shot at a broadly appealing opener this frame.

Nix the crix

Set for some 2,466 theaters, Denzel Washington starrer is tracking reasonably well across the board. But opening-frame exit interviews could prove interesting following toxic early reviews from critics.

"The only place we have any weakness at all is with females under 25," New Line distrib prexy David Tuckerman said.

Tuckerman predicted "John" will prove an audience success despite critical brickbats, similar to distrib's earlier experience with last year's "Life as a House" and current player "I Am Sam."

Disney bows kid tooner "Return to Never Land" in about 2,400 theaters Friday, with distrib figuring "Peter Pan" spinoff to perform much like last year's modestly budgeted "The Tigger Movie." That "Winnie the Pooh" spinoff, which opened at $9.4 million over a three-day frame last February, grossed $45.6 million domestically.

MGM's World War II drama "Hart's War" unspools in 2,459 venues. Adult drama is expected to draw mostly older males.

Paramount will send out Britney Spears starrer "Crossroads." Set for 2,380 playdates, pic skews heavily toward females under 25.

"We've got a well-defined audience, and they certainly know about the film," Par vice chairman Rob Friedman said, pointing to a big marketing campaign through corporate cousin MTV. "It's a horse race this weekend, and we'll be in there mixing it up."

'Troopers' target

Tracking data has been quiet for Fox Searchlight's "Super Troopers," which debuts with 1,778 engagements. Laffer's best hopes of audience traction appears to be with younger males.

"It's very targeted to the 18- to 24-year-olds," Fox Searchlight distrib prexy Steve Giulula said.

Guilula added that specialty distrib's "threshhold of success is modest" on the pic, a $3 million pickup at last year's Sundance Film Festival.

Elsewhere, Sony Pictures Classics' "Last Orders" figures among frame's limited openers. Michael Caine starrer unspools in L.A. and Gotham venues.

And Miramax's Iris Murdoch biopic "Iris" hits the top 20 domestic markets. Release follows an earlier Academy-consideration limited run; pic fetched Oscar noms for topliner Judi Dench and supporting thesps Kate Winslet and Jim Broadbent.

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