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December 31, 2001
Arthur J Pais
Arguably the most audacious gamble in Hollywood, The Lord of the Rings, is paying off at worldwide box-office.
One of the most critically acclaimed sci-fi films of all times, it has grossed $ 300 million worldwide in about two weeks, making the first of the $ 270 million trilogy already profitable. The producers have received about $ 150 million of the gross.
And there is certainly more to come, with the buzz of over 10 Oscar nominations and a good chance of winning the crown. The box-office gross is even more impressive considering that the film is over three-hours long.
The Lord of the Rings is playing at 3,359 theatres in North America, followed by Harry Potterin 3186 theatres and Ocean's 11 in 3075.
While Harry Potter, which smashed several records in its opening week is expected to end its North American run with about $ 320 million, box-office analysts expect The Lord of the Rings to earn at least $ 350 million. AOL Time Warner produces both films.
New Line, the producer of The Lord of the Rings is a corporate sibling of Warner. While Harry Potter has become the highest grossing movie for Warner, The Lord of the Rings is expected to fly well beyond the $ 230 million record Rush Hour 2 has set for New Line.
And if The Lord of the Rings wins several Oscars, it might jump onto the $ 400 million list, and replace Star Wars -- The Phantom Menace to be the highest grosser after the $ 610-million Titanic record.
Most science fantasies open big and lose about 45 percent of their audiences in the second week. But The Lord of the Rings lost only about 20 percent. Part of the reason was that the film is playing in the holiday season. More important, Hollywood insiders believe, is that people are returning to see it even though a large number of them have not read the epic by J R R Tolkien.
New Line Films, who took the gamble of shooting the two sequels to the movie along with the first film, without waiting to see how the first installment fared -- is now designing a campaign to draw in non-Tolkien fans.
Many viewers seem to echo Entertainment Weekly's Linda Schwarzbaum who declared at the end of a glowing review: I may have never turned a page of Tolkien, but I know enchantment when I see it. She gave the movie an A; just about 20 percent of the films reviewed by the weekly get that rating.
The executives at New Line believe that there are millions of J R R Tolkien fans that have not seen the film for some reason or the other. But their research has also showed that many people are seeing the film because it is a superb entertainment, solidly acted and joyously shot
Heard at a recent screening: "I love Star Wars film but I love this one because there is wonderful acting."
The Lord of the Rings is now attracting a wider audience of families and seniors Russell Schwartz, president of domestic marketing at New Line, told reporters last weekend.
Science fantasies aren't usually big with Oscar voters who think they are mainly of supported by teenagers. But The Lord of the Rings could ride into that mindset and change it.
Schwartz also said New Line thinking the film ":off the entertainment pages." Ad campaigns could be placed in the book section of magazines and newspapers or in the news or business sections of newspapers. The new marketing campaign will stress such themes as destiny and community, he said.
These notions mean more than ever in the wider world, he added, talking in the context of September 11 terrorist attacks and the plea for more understanding and better bonding between people.
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