November 25, 2003

Dear Peter Jackson

Is there any way I can pay extra to see the extended version of The Return of the King (which will be released on DVD in about a year) in theaters on December 17th instead of the scaled back (and therefore crappier) theatrical version? This is an honest question, I’d really like to know. Since both of the extended versions of FotR and TTT have been better than the theatrical versions, I was hoping to skip the disappointment I’ll inevitably feel this year and jump straight to the “why the hell didn’t they just show that version in the theaters”-feeling I’ll inevitably experience next year. Feel free to respond in the comments. Thanks for reading. And kudos on making such great films (on DVD).

[More: Kottke’s review and Polytropos’ “Extended, Enhanced, Redeemed” review.]

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Mori Dinauer

Because if the movie was any longer, the theatres would have to reduce the number of showings per day, which would reduce the amount of money it would make. Very few theatrical releases even make it over the 2 hour mark, but with a “built-in” fanbase, theatres are willing to exhibit such a long movie (likewise with movies like “Titanic”, which rests solely on the reputation of James Cameron).

Walt Dickinson

Yeah, but I’m saying, special midnight showings of the extended version at 150% standard ticket price for the ultra hardcore fans. Delightful.

Sean Peisert

Walt: I have a good friend with something like a 61” widescreen TV, Infinity speakers, Dolby Digital, etc… I go to his house. It’s better than IMAX.

I agree with Walt actually and I think Mori’s point about Titanic actually makes the case for releasing the longer version. While I don’t like comparing Titanic to any of the Lord of the Ring films, I think that Titanic was considered a very risky film due its running time. Everyone was saying, “Oh, it can’t possibly make it’s money back because it’s too long — theaters won’t make any money.” Exactly the opposite happened as Titanic went on to be the highest grossing film of all time.

I suspect there might be more to it though, Walt. I think Jackson finds that he has extended creative freedom (in the similar vein as Lucas) where can get critical feedback from the original thatrical release and then update the film’s special edition accordingly. In other words, I don’t think the extended version of Return of the King would be quite the same if it was released in theaters. Jackson has been under the gun in terms of time since he started working on these films. Another six months of time to craft these films is probably what has helped make the special editions so damn good.