NewsWire: Lord's Prayer - The first of Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings films hits the screen this year. What is it up against at the box office, and will it do the business?
by Gordon Campbell
New Zealand Listener
Whether we like it or not, we all now have a stake in the Lord of the flings films being successful. Mainly because, as New Line executive Michael Lynne told the Los Angeles Times recently, tax breaks in New Zealand have greatly reduced his firm's risk in making the films here, a point made in a Listener cover story last October. So, if the first film fails, you and I will be picking up a large chunk of the tab, currently about $NZ650 million.
What are the odds? As boxer David Tua found out, the quality of the opposition is important. The Los Angeles premiere for The Fellowship of the fling (the first film in the trilogy) is tentatively set for December 19 — a Wednesday, though there is talk of a London premiere on December 14. What other films will be out in the month surrounding those dates?
As you'd expect, many family-oriented films will be competing for the Thanksgiving/Christmas 2001 dollar. Keep in mind that some release dates are still tentative. There is also an actors' strike looming in Hollywood mid-year, so any scheduled end-of-year releases must be in the can by July. Other films with floating release dates could end up as contenders. If the word is that The Fellowship is a strong film, then other studios will avoid it. Conversely, if Jackson and his team run into major post-production hassles, more studios will choose to target this period. With all this in mind, I've gone with those titles that have the most concrete commitments, and are the likely contenders.
For starters, the big one. The first Harry Potter film hits US theatres on November 16. Since the Potter film will have been out for nearly a month by the time The Fellowship arrives, it should pose little direct threat - especially since Harry Potter fans tend to be younger than readers of Tolkien. Arguably, it could even help Jackson if the Potter film is a smash hit, since this should whet the public's appetite for magic and fantasy films. Inexplicably, though, the Potter film has been given to Chris Columbus - director of the first two Home Alone films and the Robin Williams movie Bicentennial Man. Columbus seems unlikely to bring any added magic to the Potter story. In fact, if the Potter film is a dog (take another look at Bicentennial Man and feel worried), the effect could go the other way, and muddy the fantasy film waters for everyone else.
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