CROSSING NEW LINES
TheOneRing.net pursued a statement from New Line since the Friday after tickets went on sale. The official response did finally come: 'We have no comment at this time.'
Only New Line knows for sure what is going on and why. Here is what the Hollywood Reporter reported from New Line Cinema: "We've been asked to make more theaters available, but the problem is we can never provide enough," said David Tuckerman, president of distribution at New Line Cinema. "This was originally done as a marketing initiative to pay back the fans who want to see it all in one swoop. It was never intended to be a moneymaking deal for us."
This leaves us as fans (and frustrated reporters) in the dark and seemingly out of luck. The studio had every chance to express regret to fans who didn't get seats, or that New Line / Peter Jackson were gratified by the fan response and didn't plan for it and wouldn't be able to meet the demand immediately. The studio could have explained that it didn't anticipate such heavy demand for a film widely owned on DVD but it was surprised and humbled. It did none of these things.
All that is left to us is to offer some speculation on what is really going on behind the scenes in Hollywood and it should be noted that individual theaters and managers were responsible for problems on "Ticket Thursday."
Is it possible that New Line Cinema was caught off guard by the demand for these tickets? Yes. In fact, it is highly probable that they had no idea the demand would be so ferocious for what turned out to be the relatively few tickets. Theater managers, on-line ticket agencies, and fans themselves were caught by surprise for an event that wasn't really promoted aside from some internet announcements and some group email.
' ... this is akin to a parent giving two kids in the family Christmas presents and telling the other three that there are no plans to extend Christmas to everybody. "Sorry kids." '
Perhaps it thought there wouldn't be more than 50,000 fans willing and able to set aside an entire weekday of life to see a film widely owned on DVD. They might have asked us first.
New Line was trying to do a service for Rings fans and it is nice to have a kindness from a studio, but it was also a marketing move, just as stated. Let's look again at part of what New Line said, "This was originally done as a marketing initiative..." This is exactly true. Rather than spend $12 million on television commercials or billboards in Los Angeles, New Line budgeted money for this one-day, one-time marketing plan that does benefit fans.
There are many reports from theaters, with at least one confirmed, that New Line requested ten or so seats in the trilogy Tuesday auditorium be held for the press. This event will provide images and words to television, radio and print media in 99 U.S. markets and about 50 more around the world on the day before "Return Of The King" hits theaters. This is perfect for the 10 p.m. news and the morning paper. This is a quick and easy story for any media outlet. The studio developed a marketing strategy that is innovative, effective, and nice for hardcore fans.
However, with demand so out-pacing supply, this is akin to a parent giving two kids in the family Christmas presents and telling the other three that there are no plans to extend Christmas to everybody. "Sorry kids." New Line should be saluted for trying to give back to fans but now the studio must react to this tsunami of demand it unleashed.
Still, fans would do well to remember that this is marketing. It was proposed, approved, planned for, budgeted, and executed as a marketing initiative. The budget is spent and this does cost New Line money and it isn't ever going to be profitable. While it isn't purely altruistic of the studio, it isn't realistic to expect New Line to spend more money at this point because it serves no further purpose from the studio's point of view. It would simply raise the cost. Theaters and exhibitors would love more showings of course, because it wouldn't cost them anything extra ...but after the 16th New Line wants to hog screens with the profitable ROTK, not trilogy Tuesday.
It would be fascinating to know who conceived this idea and what discussions took place prior to the studio signing on. At considerable expense extended edition prints will have to be minted. Remember, this is still the studio that not only gave the green light to Tolkien films, but budgeted for three rather than two -- but that was also at least partially a business consideration.
Perhaps somebody with equal vision will take a hand in these matters.
Another possible factor here is the "gifts" targeted for film patrons from the studio, which have been mentioned by several theaters. These giveaways - and the reports are too prevalent and wide spread for there not to be some truth here - may also have served to limit the number of potential trilogy participants. If there were 55,000 items designated for these special showings, it is understandable that New Line would be reluctant to add to the numbers. If this is the case fans simply need an explanation and they will still line up to buy tickets, gifts or not.
If the popularity of this one-time-only exhibition didn't catch New Line off guard, what then? They knew there wouldn't be enough tickets to go around but they didn't care? Parhaps, or maybe they have some future plans. In February or March, just as 'Return Of The King' is losing some steam at the box office, will New Line trot out this marathon during a slow cinema season and push the 'King' numbers ever higher?
It isn't hard to imagine this also serves as a litmus test of sorts for the studio to see if there is a market for marathon screenings. (It is worth noting that running a marathon only takes three hours on average, much shorter than watching these movies as one so maybe this is a megathon?) Next Christmas, New Line could trot out its all-extended-edition versions of three films for a single viewing. Why wait five or 10 years as the Hollywood Reporter suggested might be the plan while quoting an unnamed source? Why not make LOTR rule the box office next year for the fourth winter in a row with 99 week-long screenings of the marathon or hold them in rotating locations all month?
Remember, marketing folks at studios are very good at what they do. Time will tell.
Whatever the future holds, New Line needs to react to its fans now. At the very least it needs to express some understanding and sympathy to its biggest supporters in a public way. TheOneRing.net and many other fan-centered web sites would love to spread the word as long as it isn't, "We have no comment at this time." Better yet, New Line needs to find a way to serve the needs of the greater-than-guessed at masses who want to see three movies as one movie.
Last year in an interview Peter Jackson told E! online, "We were really thinking, at the time (during filming), that we were making one nine-hour movie." Fans simply want to watch this movie as the director intended.