NewsWire: Lord of the Rings Calls Mobile Users - Reuters

by Michael Holden

Mobile phone users will be able to download messages from Gandalf the Wizard and Frodo the Hobbit as a marketing ploy to promote the up-and-coming Lord of the Rings movie trilogy.

Fans of the JRR Tolkien classic tale of mythical creatures living in Middle-earth will be able to tune into the latest information about the first movie, scheduled for release in December, as well as playing games and quizzes.

Finnish wireless entertainment publisher Riot Entertainment said on Monday it had signed a unique deal with the film's producers New Line Cinema, the first time a major movie release will be promoted using wireless technology.

"There will be a number of services based on the technology that exists today with SMS (Short Message Service)," Darrell Purviance, senior vice president of RIOT-E, said.

"Our first phase will be a quiz, a poll and a news service to help promote the movie. At the same time there will be a mini-adventure game. There will also be a multi-player version of that which will be the first multi-player game launched in Europe."

The premiere of The Fellowship of the Rings, the first of the trilogy based on the classic novel by JRR Tolkien, is scheduled for December 19. Stars of the film that was made in New Zealand include Elijah Wood as "Frodo" and Ian McKellen as "Gandalf".

Two sequels The Two Towers and Return of the King are earmarked for December 2002 and 2003, and RIOT-E has secured the global rights to these.

Purviance said other games and services using more sophisticated technology are planned for the future movies.

The services would become available to subscribers on September 19, RIOT-E said. This would also mark the first time that such entertainment services would be made available to U.S mobile phone users, it added.

Currently RIOT-E has a worldwide reach of 120 million but it predicts this figure to rise to 300 million potential users by the end of the summer.

A similar project by the company providing interactive text message to coincide with the British release of the Bridget Jones's Diary movie generated 15,000 subscribers a day at its peak.

"RIOT-E's mobile games will provide a launch pad into unique wireless The Lord of the Rings experiences, fuelling the world's excitement and curiosity about the movie," David Imhoff executive vice president of New Line Cinema said in a statement.

The Lord of the Rings has sold 50 million copies, and New Line, a subsidiary of AOL Time Warner, said movie interest had caused book sales to rise 400 percent in the past year.

The official Lord of the Rings website generated 350 million hits in the three months following its re-launch in January.

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