New Line picked-up the rights to Lord of the Rings and Tolkien's other seminal classic The Hobbit from Miramax Films. Miramax co-chairmen Bob and Harvey Weinstein will serve as executive producers of the potential franchise. New Line's deal also includes worldwide merchandising rights to consumer products based on the film property.
The company may release the trilogy as a Christmas-summer-Christmas event series during the 2000-2001 calendar year. The films will be produced consecutively and all will be shot on location in New Zealand. Principal photography will last approximately one year, and it is expected that production will begin by mid-1999. Weta Digital, Jackson's innovative special effects firm based in New Zealand, will be responsible for the elaborate computer generated visuals demanded of the epic project.
"This deal represents a unique collaboration between competitors in the independent film world, and an unprecedented production commitment on behalf of New Line Cinema," Shaye said. "Anyone who is familiar with Tolkien's work knows that this is one of the most internationally beloved pieces of fiction ever produced. We are completely committed to Peter Jackson's vision for this trilogy, and we will make sure that he has the necessary logistical, financial and creative support to complete a project of this size and scope."
Jackson has been developing the trilogy for more than two years while working with his groundbreaking visual effects team to perfect proprietary computer programs that will be used during the complex production and post-production process.
"It has taken 45 years for filmmaking technology to finally catch up with Tolkien's imagination," Jackson said. "We are fortunate down here in New Zealand to have both the computer technology and the natural landscapes to bring the unique world of Middle Earth to life. It's very exciting to be making The Lord of the Rings as a trilogy. Shooting three feature films back-to-back has never been done before, and it shows tremendous vision on the part of Bob Shaye and New Line Cinema. Not only will we create a unique cinematic event, but we will be treating Tolkien's work with the respect and integrity it deserves."
Added Harvey Weinstein, co-chairman of Miramax Films, "Given our long-term relationship with Peter Jackson dating back to his Academy Award-nominated Heavenly Creatures, and our respect for Bob Shaye, Michael Lynne and their excellent team at New Line, we're pleased that Peter's vision for Lord of the Rings will be realized."
Demonstrating the enormous popularity of Tolkien's work, Lord of the Rings has sold more than 50 million copies worldwide while being translated into 25 different languages. "The numbers support our enthusiasm for the project," Shaye said, adding "we believe international interest, licensing and promotional opportunities will be extraordinary."
Fine Line Features President Mark Ordesky was instrumental in securing the project, and he will oversee the project on behalf of the studio along with New Line Productions President Michael De Luca.
"Peter's creative foresight, technological prowess, and passion for the project uniquely qualify him to translate one of the world's most imaginative novels to the screen," De Luca and Ordesky said.
New Line's Senior Executive Vice President Ben Zinkin and Senior Vice President of Business Affairs Suzanne Rosencrans negotiated the agreements, along with Ordesky. ICM's Ken Kamins represented Jackson and Walsh. Jackson was also represented by attorneys Peter Nelson and George Davis of Nelson, Guggenheim, Felker & Levine. Al Bendich represented Zaentz.
Last year, Lord of the Rings was named the "#1 Book of the Century" in a survey of more than 25,000 avid readers in the United Kingdom. Published in 1954-55, Tolkien's timeless masterpiece The Lord of the Rings - comprised of The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King -- stands as one of the greatest works of imaginative fiction ever written.
Set in a mythic pre-history, The Lord of the Rings tells the saga of a desperate battle against encroaching evil - a perilous quest to save humanity which falls upon the shoulders of a young hobbit, Frodo Baggins, who has inherited a seemingly innocent magic ring from his elderly cousin Bilbo.
However Frodo soon learns that the ring's original maker, the Dark Lord Sauron, is desperately seeking it - for it is a ring of great evil which will enable Sauron to enslave the people of this land known as Middle Earth. A hurriedly assembled fellowship of wizard, elf, dwarf and men accompany Frodo and his friends on a harrowing mission across Middle Earth in an attempt to destroy the ring by casting it into the volcanic fires in the Crack of Doom. Against them rages the monstrous power of Sauron, whose sinister emissaries ruthlessly pursue Frodo and his companions, while the omnipotent power of the ring attempts to corrupt the fellowship from within.
An internationally respected filmmaker, Peter Jackson received an Academy Award� nomination for his screenplay of Heavenly Creatures, a film he also directed and produced. Heavenly Creatures was awarded a Silver Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 1994.
Among his other films, he previously directed and co-wrote Dead Alive, which won 16 international science fiction awards, including the Saturn. Most recently, he was responsible for The Frighteners, which was executive produced by Robert Zemeckis.
Walsh co-wrote the Academy Award-nominated Heavenly Creatures and has also collaborated with Jackson on Meet the Feebles and Dead Alive.
A legendary producer, Zaentz secured the rights to The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings directly from author J.R.R. Tolkien. Among his many credits, he has produced such Academy Award-winning films as The English Patient, Amadeus, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, and he is a recipient of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' prestigious Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award. Zaentz is also co-owner of Fantasy Records, the first recording company to introduce audiences to Dave Brubeck, Lenny Bruce and Creedence Clearwater Revival. Fantasy has grown into one of the largest jazz labels in the world.
Along with his work on The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien is the famed writer of such fantasy genre novels as The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, and The Silmarillon. A distinguished professor of English, Tolkien began writing Lord of the Rings in 1936, and the three volumes took more than 14 years to complete.
Founded in 1967, New Line Cinema is the entertainment industry's leading independent producer and distributor of theatrical motion pictures. New Line licenses its films to ancillary markets including cable and broadcast television as well as to international venues. The company, which is a subsidiary of Time Warner Inc., operates several divisions including in-house theatrical distribution, marketing, home video, television, acquisitions, production, licensing and merchandising units.