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Final ‘Rings' Film Due May 25

8 Mar, 2004 By: Holly J. Wagner


The one ring that ruled the 2003 Academy Awards will rock retail when the theatrical version of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King arrives on home video May 25, nearly three months earlier in the year than the first two installments in the franchise.

“In an ideal world, we would have had this timing for all three releases. What held us back with the first two was creating that 10-minute piece for the next movie,” said Matt Lasorsa, SVP of marketing at New Line Home Entertainment.

The May release date also lets the studio capitalize on Oscar buzz. The film won the 11 Oscars for which it was nominated, including best picture, best director (Peter Jackson), adapted screenplay, costume design, art direction, film editing, original score, original song, makeup, visual effects and sound mixing.

With domestic and worldwide box office receipts of more than $364.1 million and $1 billion, respectively, and rising, Return of the King is also the most successful box office film of the trilogy, thanks to fans of the literary and movie franchises.

“People are very excited, as you could expect,” said Bill Hunt, editor of thedigitalbits.com. “Other than Star Wars, it's the most awaited disc of the year.”

The wish list for bonus materials goes beyond the features on other titles, Hunt said.

“Usually what people say is deleted scenes and commentary, but a lot of that will be on the extended set,” he said. “What a lot of people would like to see is bloopers and gag reels. But people are, frankly, just excited to see the movie because it was such a great film.”

The two-disc set will be available in fullscreen or widescreen for $29.95. On VHS, the title will be priced at $24.97 (prebook is April 20 for either format). Disc two will feature behind-the-scenes specials, featurettes, theatrical trailers, TV spots, the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy supertrailer, a preview of the upcoming The Lord of the Rings Trilogy video game from Electronic Arts and a link to exclusive online content about the movie trilogy.

Some of the same promotional partners, including Duracell and Verizon, will be back to support the release, although there will be no Adventure Card or movie voucher with the final episode of the trilogy.

Fans will have to wait a little longer for a street date for the extended version, which is expected to run four hours and 10 minutes to four hours and 15 minutes for the feature alone. Although New Line executives would like to have it in stores for the holidays, Lasorsa said it's possible the set might not arrive until the first quarter of 2005 as the studio works to make sure the set has compelling value for consumers. As with previous segments, the extended set will have bonus materials distinct from those on the theatrical cut.

“We've always, from the very beginning, been very upfront with the consumer and tried to provide those choices to consumers,” Lasorsa said.

As for special editions, boxed sets or other possible special sets, New Line execs want to be sure they can add value beyond just aggregating the existing materials.

“We're going to get through the extended version, and then we really have to look at what we have at that point. There is no plan for the ?berset,” he said. “We need materials compelling enough for the ?berset. Even if we can find and compile those materials, we are looking at something at least a couple of years away. We would make it significantly different. We want consumers to feel it is worth it.”

After years on the same path, folks at New Line won't find it easy to wave goodbye to Middle-earth.

“It's going to be a very sad day for us, because it has been such a wonderful property to work on. It's a once-in-a-career opportunity,” Lasorsa said. “We are just fortunate to work for a studio with this kind of product. We will never be able to match it, so we shouldn't even think that way. We just work with what we have and continue to create great releases.”

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