The birth of a Blockbuster Epic Essay
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When individuals discuss important dates in history, the year 1954 is not one that tends to be discussed. People might debate the importance of the first flight over the North Pole or possibly the ending of segregation in the schools of Nova Scotia as being one of the significant issues that occurred in 1954. No one would deny these two previous events as not being influential in today’s society, but in regards to the film and literary industries, the date 1954 has another significance.
On July 29, 1954, John Ronald Reuel Tolkien released his first book, entitled The Fellowship of the Ring, of the epic trilogy, The Lord of the Rings.
When the trilogy was released, the publisher only printed 3500 copies, as they did not anticipate people buying it (BBC. com). At the time of the release, no one envisioned this novel to evolve into the blockbuster epic that it has become in the film and literary industries. This novel was a success on its own in the literary field, but it was not until the film and literary industries noticed the mutual advantages that could be ascertained by producing this into an adaptation that the stardom occurred.
Time Warner Inc., who is the leading global media and entertainment company, is the corporate conglomerate that took this novel and forged it into the biggest blockbuster that has ever beheld our society. Factors such as history, finances, exposure, and negative aspects have all been crucial elements that participated in the molding of Time Warner’s decision on whether or not to adapt this novel. Clearly, any individual would state that Time Warner made the appropriate conclusion based on its success, but there were both advantages and disadvantages that partook in the decision-making.
“One estimate claims that thirty percent of the movies today derive from novels, and eighty percent of the books classified as best sellers have been adapted to cinema” (Corrigan 2). History has shown us that society in general is appreciative of having a literary concept of a story take the cinematic leap to the big screen. The epic trilogy of the Lord of the Rings spent seventy-three weeks and over three years on the fifty best-selling book list (USA Today).
Since eighty percent of books that are classified as best sellers are implemented as adaptations, it was only a matter of time before a financially capable corporation, such as Time Warner, and stepped forward to grasping this immense project with their clutching fingers. The New York Stock Exchange currently has the giant media conglomerate called Time Warner Inc. , listed at a net worth of 76. 1 billion dollars (Variety. com). Time Warner is currently ranked number one in the media and entertainment industry ahead of such companies like Walt Disney and Universal Studios.
Time Warner, is compromised of seven entities such as America Online, Time Warner Cable, HBO, Turner Broadcasting System, New Line Cinema, Warner Bros. Entertainment, and Time Inc. These seven different companies are major Internet, publishing, film, telecommunications, and television divisions throughout the world. This company-consuming conglomerate currently owns two hundred and ninety separate, and very successful business (Wikipedia). Two industries under the canopy of Time Warner shared immense mutual advantages in both the literary and film aspect for the blockbuster hit, The Lord of the Rings.
One of them that Time Warner owns is the entertainment’s industry’s leading independent producer and distributor of feature films, which is New Line Cinema (Timewarner. com). New Line Cinema was the film company that produced the blockbuster adaptation of The Rings. The other is a publishing company called Warner Books, who owns one of the plethoras of publishing rights for the trilogies novels. Since Time Warner owns both of these companies in the literary and film industry, they already had a common mutual advantage established before production of the adaptation even commenced.
It seemed like this was a simple process for Time Warner to attain, owning both companies that participated in the film, but there was a process that had to be followed before this before the blockbuster was to be adapted. Many directors, companies, and other famous individuals processed the idea of making an adaptation of The Rings before New Line Cinema officially did. “There were plans for the Beatles to do a versions of The Rings but they came to nothing.
It was even said that Kubrick had looked into the possibility of filming the trilogy, but he abandoned the idea as it was too ‘immense’ to be made into a movie” (Wikipedia). There were many individuals in previous years that fondled the idea of producing this trilogy into an adaptation. Common consensus among them all was it would be too expensive to finance the entire project. Even though many thought about this idea, the process was never initiated because the purchases of the rights were never discussed.
Hollywood producer Saul Zaentz has held the rights to the Tolkien books since 1976 when he purchased them from a undisclosed source. (NewsFromRussia). Miramax Films was the first to purchase these rights from Zaentz, with Peter Jackson as the director. Finances immediately became a problem for the small film company, and New Line Cinema’s leaped in with their financially deep pockets and removed the rights from Miramax’s weak hold (Wikipedia). New Line Cinema had the financial backing of Time Warner to purchase the rights of the film from Miramax, and gave Jackson a blank check for production expenditure cost.
In doing this, it meant that Time Warner automatically acknowledge the possibility of this film being a financial box office bomb. The profits that had already been generated from Warner Books publications of the novels were enough incentive for Time Warner to produce this into an adaptation. The obvious reason for film and literary industries to link their corporate hands together to produce a blockbuster adaptation is revenue. If a film is successful in the box office, there is no doubt that it will also be highly successful in the department of DVD sales, merchandise, etc.
The question concerning The Rings was whether or not the first movie would be a box office hit. If it were, Time Warner and New Line Cinema would be able to assume that the two other films would also generate approximately the same figures in the box office. With the filming of The Rings by Jackson, he achieved a concept that has never been done before in any aspect of filming a movie. New Line and Jackson decided to film all three movies at once, which took sixteen months to complete the film and used 2400 members throughout the filming (NewFromRussia).
This process that Jackson created has now been dubbed as “simulesequeling,” and in terms of schedule, crew size, and overall budget, The Rings is the biggest film undertaking of all time (Gilsdorf, 30). In doing this, New Line and Time Warner were able to release one movie each year for the next three years to keep the hungry fans happy and content with a yearly injection of another Rings movie. In total, the entire cost for producing The Rings was $310 million, with New Line and Time Warner footing the bill (Gilsdorf, 31).
Since all three movies were completed together in their entirety, the first film of The Rings had to grab the audience immediately, so that they felt compelled to finish the epic ride. When the Fellowship of the Rings hit the box office, it was a success grossing $66. 1 million in the first day and achieved $314,776,170 million in total box office revenue (Variety. com). Jackson and New Line Cinema were ecstatic with the figures this movie achieved, and the first film immediately put New Line and Time Warner heads above their competition.
With the success of the movie, Warner Books decided to release a new rendition of the trilogy, with a nice glossy cover consisting of pictures of the movie characters on the cover. The Rings trilogy has arguably become the most profitable fictional work of all time, and hungry commercial forces were ready to produce the tie-in products for the movie. Items such as children’s novels, hobbit cake decoration, balrog votive candleholders, and even Aragorn shot classes were made (Gilsdorf, 33). Anything that could have been thought to create a profit by merchandising was made, and shaped Tolkien’s name into more of a brand name than an author.