NewsWire: Frodo Lives - San Francisco Gate

by David Lazarus

You can either sit around these days waiting to see if the Nasdaq will ever again top 2,000, or, like me, you can be counting the days until the big-screen version of The Lord of the Rings is released.

I got a sneak peek at the first installment in the trilogy the other day, and am very happy to report that, based on 25 minutes of advance footage, this looks like a way-cool movie that totally captures the feel of Tolkien's books. At least that's if the awesome Mines of Moria sequence I saw is indicative of the rest of the flick.

Whether The Lord of the Rings makes its money back is another matter. A "source close to the filmmakers" -- to call the people behind this movie secretive is an understatement -- acknowledged that the budget for all three installments, including marketing, topped $300 million, easily surpassing the $260 million lavished on Titanic.

But the source said executives at New Line Cinema, which is backing the Rings epic, are breathing easier now that they have recouped 65 percent of their costs by preselling the movie overseas. They also have cut a $70 million marketing accord with Burger King and other partners, and expect at least $11 million in merchandising of Middle Earth goodies.

"This movie is certainly a gamble," the source said. "But it's a well-planned gamble."

We'll all see for ourselves when the picture opens Dec. 19.

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