The Hobbit Countdown runs every other week and geeks out on all things related to Peter Jackson's upcoming trilogy based on The Hobbit.
With just a little over a week until advance tickets for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey go on sale (starting November 7), and with Warner Bros. having just released its star-studded Cloud Atlas, the promotional buildup to the first of three Hobbit movies continues.
NEW TV SPOTS
Two new television commercials popped up last week. In the second, we get our first glimpse anywhere of talking trolls and emphasis, as always, on Bilbo (Martin Freeman), Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage).
The first spot used the opening line directly from the book by J.R.R. Tolkien, and indeed it is one of the most recognized opening lines from any book: “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit." This is the most direct link any promotional material has yet made to the written word.
But it was more interested in positioning these films as a return to Middle-earth by the same creative team that produced The Lord of the Rings, a smart move since the boasts of that trio -- Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens -- earned about $3 billion at the box office.
"BUILD YOUR OWN HOBBIT SLAM"
The really interesting promotion came not from a movie theater but from a restaurant. Denny’s has changed its menu to get a little more hobbity. Yours truely was even tapped at Comic-Con to help find some authentic geeks to be part of the campaign, although everybody in the spot looks like regular-old actors to me.
But the biggest news about the films is that yet another technological advance is tied into the film. Movies.com readers may not want to get all technical (or they may) but the already boundary-pushing Hobbit film announced that, along with its visuals, its audio will also be on the leading edge of technology.
Dolby Labratories and Peter Jackson’s Park Road Post announced in a joint release that The Hobbit will be mixed in the new Dolby Atmos. To many readers and movie patrons, it seems difficult to comprehend that a new Dolby can be noticibly superior to an old one. How much better can it really be? And will the average attendee be able to tell a difference?
Well, apparently yes. Dolby Atmos allows sound mixers to move the sound mix around and above users in a much more realistic way, giving greater immersion into the film experience. It reportedly gives technicians many more “sound objects” or spaces in a theater, even with existing equipment, to create Middle-earth like never before.
Park Road Post is Jackson’s team’s postproduction facility, part of Wellington’s movie empire that made the two seriously consider erecting a “Wellywood” sign near the airport (instead it became “All Blacks” after their world champion rugby team). Christopher Boyes, Michael Hedges and Michael Semanick will do the work in New Zealand, and if you don’t recognize the names don’t be surprised but they won Academy Awards for The Return of the King.
“I strive to make movies that allow the audience to participate in the events on-screen, rather than just watch them unfold. Wonderful technology is now available to support this goal: high frame rates, 3D and now the stunning Dolby Atmos system,” said Jackson. “Dolby has always been at the cutting edge of providing cinema audiences with the ultimate sound experience, and they have now surpassed themselves. Dolby Atmos provides the completely immersive sound experience that filmmakers like myself have long dreamed about.”
That sounds like -- and is -- press release talk, but non-Dolby-based reports of the effects of the new technology also make it accurate. The new sound should be the very best yet.
All this new technology creates an almost humorous list of ways for moviegoers to experience The Hobbit. Most people will likely see the film at 24 frames per second in a standard theater, but choices and curiosity abound. Will it be the filmmaker-intended 48 fps for you? Here are the visual choices available:
24 fps 2D or 3D
48 fps 2D or 3D
IMAX 2D and 3D
Add a new sound quality to those six options and suddenly there are a dozen choices or versions available. The question is, beyond 2D and 3D, do fans care? I don’t know about the rest of the world, but I want to see the film in theaters at its technological peak: 48 fps, 3D with Dolby Atmos. Not traditionally a fan of 3D, my time on the set showed the great care put into shooting the film in effective 3D and 3ality, the company working with Jackson to maximize the technology, is making every effort to make this film a showcase of its ability to immerse an audience in a film.
The challenge for fans is trying to figure out which auditorium has the best technology, assuming they even care.
With tickets going on sale November 7, many fans will be hoping to see The Hobbit at the very earliest possible moment. For most, that means the evening of December 13 will give way to midnight movies around the country. TheOneRing.net, as it did for the three LOTR films, is offereing a way for fans in local communities to find each other and attend screenings with the like-minded. The best and most organized party events manage to work with theater owners, play trivia and get corporate support for merchandise and prizes. Follow the link to find a Line Party near you: Line Parties.
Wellington, the capital of New Zealand and the location of the studios The Hobbit was shot in, serves as the world premiere for the film on November 26. The thriving metropolis is a 13-hour flight from Los Angeles. It is a long journey, but a number of media are expected to drop into the city, which is reportedly pulling out all the stops for the big party. One example is the giant Gollum erected at the Wellington airport. Wellington previously hosted the premiere for Return of the King, and hundreds of thousands of the city's people took to the streets to celebrate. After the Kiwi event, other premieres will reportedly be held in Asia, New York and London.
Larry D. Curtis, as part of the team at TheOneRing.net, has been comprehensively covering the works and adaptations of J.R.R. Tolkien for more than a decade, making the not-for-profit site the leading source about The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings for fans and film makers worldwide. Curtis represents the site at conventions and events around the U.S. including the San Diego Comic-Con. You can read his The Hobbit Countdown here at Movies.com every other week.