By BERNARD STAMLER
rodo the hobbit, Gandalf the wizard and the other denizens of J. R. R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth captivated movie audiences last winter in “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” and gave New Line Cinema the highest-grossing film in its history. And with the help of a $65 million marketing campaign and an aggressive product mix, New Line expects the DVD and videotape versions of “The Fellowship of the Ring” to at least match the film’s box-office take.
New Line Home Entertainment, a division of New Line Cinema, after holding a kickoff benefit in Central Park and midnight sales events last night, plans to release the first of two versions of the movie today.
The two-disc DVD set being released today (list price, $29.95) contains a number of special features, including a 10-minute preview of “The Two Towers,” the next installment of the “Lord of the Rings” film trilogy, which is scheduled to arrive in theaters this Christmas. The videocassette will list for $22.94.
On Nov. 12, a second home video version of the movie, with more features, like 30 more minutes of the film, will be released on four discs ($39.99) and two cassettes ($24.99). A boxed gift edition of that version — at a higher price, of course — will also be released that month ($79.92).
New Line is not the first studio to release on DVD and video both regular and extended versions of films, which usually restore deleted scenes and are often called directors’ cuts. But, said Matt Lasorsa, a senior vice president of marketing for New LineHome Entertainment, this is the first time that the new version is a fully integrated film. In addition to restoring deleted scenes, he said, new scenes and special effects have been added by the director Peter Jackson, while Howard Shore, who won an Academy Award for the movie’s score, has added music. The result is a “thoroughly conceptualized” film, said Stephen Einhorn, president of New Line Home Entertainment.
“The Fellowship of the Ring” grossed $860 million in theaters worldwide, including $313 million in domestic receipts, Mr. Lasorsa said. That performance made it one of the 10-highest-grossing movies in United States history, the fifth-highest internationally and the biggest ever for New Line. Mr. Lasorsa predicts that sales of the two versions in DVD and video will “equal or exceed the theatrical box office.” Since DVD’s and videos are products with high profit margins — most of the costs reside with the movie version — a solid performance would be good news for New Line’s beleaguered corporate parent, AOL Time Warner.
New Line is promoting the video vigorously, bolstering its advertising budget with media contributions from partners like Gateway, the computer company, and Kia Motors America for the August release, and other companies for November. Mr. Lasorsa puts the “total media commitment,” including the partners’ contributions, at about $65 million.
Print ads are running in outlets like Time, People and Entertainment Weekly, which are also part of AOL Time Warner, while television commercials are running on broadcast programs including “CSI,” “Charmed,” “Big Brother” and “Late Night with Conan O’Brien.”
The spots, created internally, highlight the inclusion in the DVD of the 10-minute preview of “The Two Towers,” said Adrianna Krikl, director of creative advertising for New Line Home Entertainment. And they are tailored for specific audiences.
A commercial aimed at women, for example, omits battle scenes, while another, aimed at young men, includes them. The spot being shown on MTV “is cut to move at a faster pace,” Ms. Krikl said, and mentions that the film was named “Best Picture” at the MTV Movie Awards.
As for Gateway, it is sponsoring a sweepstakes for a trip to New Zealand, where the “Lord of the Rings” films were made. Gateway, the computer maker, will offer a free copy of the DVD to anyone who buys a Pentium 4 based system, New Line’s Mr. Lasorsa said. Its commercial shows a cow, the Gateway symbol, watching “The Fellowship of the Ring” on a Gateway computer screen.
Kia’s effort is tied to the introduction of a new model, the Sorento, a midsize sports utility vehicle that is expected to be in showrooms by September, a company spokesman said. A free copy of the DVD will also be given to anyone who takes a test drive of any of its cars, a point that Kia’s commercial goes to great lengths to make.
In the spot, produced by davidand goliath, an independent agency in Los Angeles, a man and his wife are driving a Sorento. They are pursued by ghostlike figures on horseback, similar to those that appear in “The Fellowship of the Ring.” Finally, they catch up to the vehicle and tap on the window. The driver rolls it down, and one of the figures — it turns out that it is a Kia dealer — hands him an object.
“Here’s your free DVD,” he says.
Wally Anderson, vice president of marketing for Kia, said that the carmaker expected dealers to give away 60,000 DVD’s over the next couple of months, Kia’s full allotment. During a similar effort last autumn in connection with the video release of “Shrek,” the company handed out 40,000 DVD’s. That promotion, tied to Kia’s introduction of its Sedona minivan, resulted in the sale of an estimated 4,000 additional vehicles, he said.
All the hype should work, said Scott Hettrick, editor in chief of Video Business magazine. “It’s going to do very well,” he said.