In the world of diehard Tolkienites the mere mention of Trilogy Tuesday invokes feelings of great anticipation and hand wringing glee. In what is sure to become part of Tolkien fandom history, New Line will present the extended editions of the Fellowship of the Ring and the Two Towers on the eve of the debut of Return of the King. This one time, one night only event will happen on December 16th in select theaters.
Never in cinematic history has a movie studio willing gone out of their way for fans. Yet New Line has done exactly that. This special event wasn’t even promoted other than with some internet news and group mail being the extent of what New Line used. The official site of LOTR didn’t carry the locations of the participating theaters until a week before the tickets went on sale. Once the news was out there it was picked up by fans and became a media frenzy. Website after website carried blurbs regarding this “once in a lifetime” fandom event.
On October 8th thousands of tickets went on sale in 99 theaters across the United States. If you blinked you were simply out of luck. There was no time to sit and ponder if this would be something you wanted to attend. Only New Line knows for sure how many tickets actually sold. Estimates found that at least between 25,000 and 60,000 tickets were sold. Many tickets were sold online before theater box offices even opened. The online sites sold out within hours of making them available. Popular online sites were shut down because of the overload of people trying to purchase them. Some theaters had fans that camped out up to 48 hours in order to be first in line and being sure they got their tickets. Whatever theater was available the fans took them. Some would have to drive for hours but for this special event the trip would become their own quest for the One Ring.
New Line went out of their way to bring fans something special. Prints of these movies were minted just for this occasion. This would be the first time ever that the extended editions would be shown on the big screen. It was to give back a little of what fans had given them. Did they have any clue that this event would become so huge? Probably not. Hundreds of people were turned away disappointed that they could not get tickets. LOTR related websites received tons of emails from angry fans asking why New Line didn’t make more theaters or more tickets available, and had they done so would the event still have been a “once in a life time” kind of thing?
There is no telling what New Line will bring us in the future. Perhaps once Return of the King has run its course they will consider running all their extended editions together in another trilogy event, this time making it available for a longer period of time and to more people. Only time will tell.