(Yahoo) Attention, Frodo fanatics: Better load up on the popcorn and soda and invest in a comfy cushion–because you’re in for a sore butt. Two weeks before The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King wraps things up on December 17, New Line Cinema plans to unleash in theaters special extended editions of the first two installments in director Peter Jackson’s epic adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy trilogy.
Cinephiles who couldn’t get enough of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring special edition DVD, which clocked in at 208 minutes and included scenes not in the theatrical version, will be able to see the epic on the big screen in all its glory starting on December 5 in about 100 movie houses in the U.S. and 20 in Canada.
A week later, on December 12, New Line will unspool the special 214-minute extended edition of The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. That version is slated to premiere as a DVD first on November 18 (the DVD of last year’s “official” theatrical release is due out on Tuesday).
But wait! There’s more!
For those with serious Hobbit habits longing to venture into Middle Earth for more than a few hours, New Line plans to screen all three films back-to-back-to-back on December 16 in a daylong marathon that will carry over with The Return of the King‘s global release on December 17.
Per Daily Variety, New Line sent memos out to exhibitors across the country this week informing them of the reissue and suggesting various screening strategies to maximize promotion leading up to The Return of the King.
The goal, according to the studio, is not simply monetary, but it’s intended to refresh moviegoers’ memories of the good-vs.-evil saga that has been lording over the box office and critics’ lists for the past two years.
“The release of the third film affords us a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to give audiences a compelling new theatrical experience of Peter Jackson (news)’s sprawling vision for this trilogy,” Rolf Mittwg, New Line’s head of worldwide distribution and marketing, told Variety.
The memo lays out guidelines for theaters calling for Fellowship to begin screening at 3 p.m. on December 16, Two Towers to follow at 7 p.m., and the first official showing of Return of the King kicking off at 11 p.m. and concluding early in the wee hours of the 17th.
The final installment is going to be the longest in the series, coming in at over three hours. Jackson promised fans in a recent USA Today interview that the climactic clash between Middle Earthlings and the fiendish Lord Sauron and his minions at Pelennor Fields will surpass Two Towers‘ Battle of Helm’s Deep in breadth and scope.
Jackson says the most satisfying part of Return of the King will be the emotional climax, something he had to bring the entire cast back for additional shooting this spring and forced him to even rework some key scenes.
“Everybody feels we are paying off the story now,” Jackson said. “The scenes tend to be more emotionally charged, which is why the actors enjoyed them and I enjoyed filming them. It absolutely has to be the best. We owe it to people.”
New Line is banking on the Lord of Rings capper to build enough buzz to finally garner Jackson and his epic an Oscar. Despite a slew of nominations (Two Towers being the first sequel since The Godfather Part II to be nominated for Best Picture) and some wins in technical categories, the golden guy has proven elusive to the filmmaker. Many show-biz insiders believe the usually fantasy-averse Motion Picture Academy is waiting for the finale before anointing Jackson’s work.
Regardless of whether Jackson stocks up his trophy case, his Rings cycle has put him in a league of his own.
The filmmaker recently sealed a deal with Universal Pictures for his next project, a massive retelling of King Kong that will see him earn $20 million up front as well as gross points on the back end, one of the most lucrative contracts ever for a director.
Advanced tickets for the rereleases are slated to go on sale in late September or early October via movie-ticketing sites like Fandango, Moviefone and Movietickets.com as well as exhibitor Websites.