Media Theory. Hobbit research.

JUL 23, 2011

Thorin & Company

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Photo by James Fisher.

(L-r) JED BROPHY as Nori, DEAN O’GORMAN as Fili, MARK HADLOW as Dori, JAMES NESBITT as Bofur, PETER HAMBLETON as Gloin, GRAHAM McTAVISH as Dwalin, RICHARD ARMITAGE as Thorin Oakenshield (center), KEN STOTT as Balin, JOHN CALLEN as Oin, STEPHEN HUNTER as Bombur, WILLIAM KIRCHER as Bifur, ADAM BROWN as Ori and AIDAN TURNER as Kili in New Line Cinema’s and MGM’s fantasy adventure THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY, a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

JUL 23, 2011

Comic Con Surprise

Entertainment Weekly put it this way: “Six thousand people packed into Comic-Con’s Hall H broke out in a simultaneous nerdgasm as Peter Jackson made a surprise appearance alongside Steven Spielberg at this morning’s panel for Dec. 23′s The Adventures of Tintin.

Spielberg, making his own first-ever appearance at Comic-Con, was greeted with a raucous standing ovation as the panel began. He introduced what was supposed to be a clip of an animation test of the CGI dog in Tintin and was instead a clip of Jackson, wearing a sailor’s cap and holding a bottle of booze, purportedly doing his own screen test for the role of Captain Haddock. Then Jackson himself took the stage. ‘Working with Steven has been amazing,’ Jackson said. ‘I think he shows real promise. If he decides to stick with filmmaking, I think he could really go places.’”

Click here to read the rest of the coverage.

NOV 5, 2011

3D Concept Sketch

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the new Production Video from the set of THE HOBBIT contains an unexpected surprise: A bit of 3D concept art from Alan Lee and John Howe. You can watch the video for the whole story, or just break out your 3D glasses and take it in for yourself via the image below.

DEC 10, 2011

A house fit for a Hobbit

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Have a look at CNN Money’s Unique Houses feature on The Hobbit House built by Vince Donovan.

DEC 15, 2011

Never too early to start getting excited

Fandango polled more than 1,000 folks and came up with their Hot List of movies coming in 2012. Does it come as any surprise which film topped the list of Top 5 Anticipated 2012 Blockbusters? Hobbit took 2nd place.

DEC 17,2011

The Hobbit goes to Lego Land

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Watch out Lego Harry Potter and Lego Star Wars… Yes, that’s right, Lego is journeying to Middle Earth. Warner Bros. and Lego have announced two new collections: LEGO THE LORD OF THE RINGS and LEGO THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY, which “will give fans of all ages a chance to build and play out the fantastical story and characters of the legendary Middle-earth adventures” depicted in the movies by Academy Award®-winning filmmaker Peter Jackson. Look for the first expansion sets in the series beginning in June 2012.

DEC 20, 2011

Trailer debut

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Return to Middle-earth with the worldwide debut of “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” announcement trailer:

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Trailer 1

THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY will be released in theaters in December of 2012.

Photo by James Fisher.

MAR 1, 2012

Fan photo competition

The folks at The Hobbit Movie fan site are running a competition for the most creative Hobbit Movie themed Facebook Timeline cover photo for their Facebook page. The winner will be announced on March 14th.

More details here… http://the-hobbit-movie.com/2012/02/22/hobbit-movie-facebook-cover-competition/

May 8, 2012

Cast News

Cast member Benedict Cumberbatch is getting some fun attention online of late… The Hollywood Reporter notes*: “The ascending star had a busy Sunday, on both sides of the Atlantic. In the United States, there was the premiere of the second season of Sherlock, the critically-acclaimed, modern-day retelling of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s mystery stories, in which he plays the central sleuth; and over in the UK, he was voted The Sun’s Sexiest Man by the tabloid’s readers.”

The New York Times reports**: “Deeper still within his head were numerous vital details that Mr. Cumberbatch’s work required him to keep locked away. There was not much he could say about his dual roles as a necromancer and a talking dragon in Peter Jackson’s film adaptation of The Hobbit, and even less about the part he was shooting in J. J. Abrams’s sequel to Star Trek. (‘I’ve got to be a complete and utter tease,’ he said, more gleeful than apologetic.)”

Oh, and then there’s this blog piece***, which Cumberbatch describes as “brilliant” and “fantastic.”

JUN 7,2012

Weta Workshop developing HOBBIT collectibles

Weta Workshop will develop and market a wide range of authentic prop replicas, collectibles and merchandise based on the upcoming films, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and The Hobbit: There and Back Again.  The first products in the collection will be unveiled at San Diego Comic-Con at the Weta booth in July 2012, along with a limited number of exclusive pieces that will be available for purchase.

“Weta’s role behind-the-scenes of these two films makes them uniquely qualified to recreate the richly imaginative world of Middle-earth that their workshop helped brought to life,” said Kelly Gilmore, senior vice president, Global Toys and Themed Entertainment, Warner Bros. Consumer Products.  “This story will transport audiences to extraordinary new places and we are thrilled to bring fans products that capture the artistry and spirit of these beloved properties.”

The Weta Workshop collection will be inspired by the scenery, characters and adventures Bilbo Baggins encounters on his remarkable journey in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey from Academy Award®-winning filmmaker Peter Jackson, slated for release December 14, 2012.  Fans and collectors will appreciate the remarkable craftsmanship behind each element of the collection, which will include collectible statues, dioramas, high-end jewelry and art prints.

“We are excited to be returning to Middle-earth,” said Weta Workshop’s Academy Award-winning Creative Director, Richard Taylor.  “We have been working with Peter Jackson and the product team on the design and production of the movies for the last four years, and we now get the chance to share our passion with fans and collectors.  Our authentic prop replicas and collectibles are created by the very same artists who have worked on the two films, so effectively they come straight from Middle-earth.”

The full collection from Weta Workshop based on The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and The Hobbit: There and Back Again will be available for purchase in October at specialty retailers and on Weta Workshop’s website at www.wetanz.com/shop.

Weta Workshop will also continue their popular range of collectibles for The Lord of the Rings, which began more than 10 years ago.  They are now featured in the art book Weta, The Collector’s Guide.

 JUN 14, 2012

THE HOBBIT premiere date set

This just in…

“THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY,” TO MAKE ITS WORLD PREMIERE ON WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 28, IN WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND

Burbank, CA, June 5, 2012–Gearing up for the global release of “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” the epic adventure will have its world premiere on November 28, 2012 in Wellington, New Zealand. A production of New Line Cinema and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” is the first of two films from filmmaker Peter Jackson, the Academy Award-winning director of The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, who shot the films concurrently on locations across New Zealand.

From Academy Award®-winning filmmaker Peter Jackson comes “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” the first of two films adapting the enduringly popular masterpiece The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien. The second film will be “The Hobbit: There and Back Again.” Both films are set in Middle-earth 60 years before “The Lord of the Rings,” which Jackson and his filmmaking team brought to the big screen in the blockbuster trilogy that culminated with the Oscar®-winning “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.”

Ian McKellen returns as Gandalf the Grey, the character he played in “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, and Martin Freeman in the central role of Bilbo Baggins. Also reprising their roles from “The Lord of the Rings” movies are: Cate Blanchett as Galadriel; Ian Holm as the elder Bilbo; Christopher Lee as Saruman; Hugo Weaving as Elrond; Elijah Wood as Frodo; Orlando Bloom as Legolas; and Andy Serkis as Gollum. The ensemble cast also includes (in alphabetical order) Richard Armitage, John Bell, Jed Brophy, Adam Brown, John Callen, Billy Connolly, Luke Evans, Stephen Fry, Ryan Gage, Mark Hadlow, Peter Hambleton, Barry Humphries, Stephen Hunter, William Kircher, Evangeline Lilly, Sylvester McCoy, Bret McKenzie, Graham McTavish, Mike Mizrahi, James Nesbitt, Dean O’Gorman, Lee Pace, Mikael Persbrandt, Conan Stevens, Ken Stott, Jeffrey Thomas, and Aidan Turner.

The screenplays for both “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” and “The Hobbit: There and Back Again” are by Fran Walsh & Philippa Boyens & Peter Jackson & Guillermo del Toro. Jackson is also producing the films, together with Carolynne Cunningham, Zane Weiner and Fran Walsh. The executive producers are Alan Horn, Toby Emmerich, Ken Kamins and Carolyn Blackwood, with Boyens and Eileen Moran serving as co-producer.

Under Jackson’s direction, both movies are being shot consecutively in digital 3D using the latest camera and stereo technology. Filming is taking place at Stone Street Studios, Wellington, and on location around New Zealand.

Among the creative behind-the-scenes team returning to Jackson’s crew are director of photography Andrew Lesnie, production designer Dan Hennah, conceptual designers Alan Lee and John Howe, composer Howard Shore and make-up and hair designer Peter King. The costumes are designed by Ann Maskrey and Richard Taylor. The score is being composed by Howard Shore.

Taylor is also overseeing the design and production of weaponry, armour and prosthetics which are once again being made by the award winning Weta Workshop. Weta Digital take on the visual effects for both films, led by the film’s visual effects supervisor, Joe Letteri. Post production will take place at Park Road Post Production in Wellington.

“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” and “The Hobbit: There and Back Again” are productions of New Line Cinema and MGM, with New Line managing production. Warner Bros Pictures is handling worldwide theatrical distribution, with select international territories as well as all international television licensing, being handled by MGM.

“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” will be released beginning December 14, 2012. The second film, “The Hobbit: There and Back Again,” is slated for release the following year, beginning December 13, 2013. www.thehobbit.com

JUL 3, 2012

The Hobbit on EW Cover

Bilbo (Martin Freeman) and Gandalf (Ian McKellen) grace the cover of this week’s Entertainment Weekly, their annual San Diego Comic Con preview. Pick up a copy to get an exclusive look at The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – here’s a sneak peek…

EW Comic Con Cover

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JUL 8, 2012

The Hobbit San Diego Comic Con Poster

The Hobbit Comic Con Poster

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Peter Jackson posted this message to his Facebook page: Hi everyone. Here’s an exclusive Comic Con poster. Be sure to get your copy in San Diego and let me know what you think of it! Cheers, Peter J

JUL 8,2012

More from Weta Workshop

This just in from Weta Workshop: A Touch of Middle-earth will be on display at the Weta Booth (#3513B) at San Diego Comic-Con on 11-15 July.

Weta will be unveiling their initial range of collectibles and prop replicas based on the upcoming films, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (December 2012) and The Hobbit: There and Back Again (December 2013), productions of New Line Cinema and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM).  Created by the original film artists in New Zealand and under license from Warner Bros. Consumer Products, these authentic collectibles will be available to order in late 2012.

In addition, Weta is excited to offer two exclusive items for sale at Comic-Con International in San Diego:

Thorin Oakenshield–with shield
The first in a range of 1:6 scale polystone statues, this limited edition collection will have a run of 700 pieces, 500 of which will be available for purchase at San Diego Comic-Con (US$249 – Limit 2 per person). The remaining 200 statues will be reserved for sale in October at the Weta Cave in New Zealand and at Ring*Con in Germany. (There will be a separate version, without shield, available at www.wetaNZ.com in October 2012.)

Thorin Oakenshield

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An Unexpected Journey
Art print by Weta Workshop Conceptual Designer Gus Hunter. 100 signed (US$60) and 400 unsigned (US$50) copies available at San Diego Comic-Con. Limit 2 per person. (*Note there will be additional copies available at www.wetaNZ.com in October 2012.)

A specific number of items will be allotted for sale each day (Wednesday to Saturday) to ensure that more people have a chance to purchase.

Weta will also be revealing their most complex collectible ever created, Barad-dûr – Fortress of Sauron; the newest piece in Weta’s The Lord of the Rings range, which debuted back in 2001. In order to take full advantage of this amazing collectible, make sure you download the new free app “Eye of Sauron” on the App Store before the show.

JUL 13, 2012

THE HOBBIT Wallpaper Generator

Warner Bros. has a new app: Use The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Wallpaper Generator to customize desktop and mobile wallpapers, Facebook covers and profile images from “The Scroll” of ten scenes from the film released recently.

THE HOBBIT Wallpaper Generator

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AUG 17, 2012

GamesCom 2012 People’s Choice Awards

Two of The Lord of the Rings-inspired video games, Guardians of Middle-earth (@GuardiansMe on Twitter) and LEGO The Lord of the Rings (#LEGOLordoftheRings), which both feature select iconic characters from The Hobbit, are nominated for IGN’s GamesCom 2012 People’s Choice Awards. The voting opened yesterday and will be open through Sunday, Aug. 19.

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SEP 2, 2012

The Hobbit Trilogy titles and release dates

The final film in Peter Jackson’s trilogy adaptation of The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien, now titled “The Hobbit: There and Back Again,” will be released worldwide on July 18, 2014.

The title of the second installment in the franchise will be “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” and the film will be released on December 13, 2013. The first film in the trilogy, “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” opens this holiday season, on December 14, 2012. Shot in 3D 48 frames-per-second, the trilogy of films will be released in High Frame Rate (HFR) 3D, other 3D formats, IMAX and 2D.

From Academy Award®-winning director Peter Jackson, the trilogy of films is set in Middle-earth 60 years before “The Lord of the Rings,” which Jackson and his filmmaking team brought to the big screen in the blockbuster trilogy that culminated with the Oscar®-winning “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.”

Under Jackson’s direction, all three movies are being shot in digital 3D using the latest camera and stereo technology. Additional filming, as with principal photography, is taking place at Stone Street Studios, Wellington, and on location around New Zealand.

SEP 11, 2012

Hobbit Movies app now available

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Warner Bros. has released a new app for The Hobbit Movies. It’s free to download, and you can check it out on iTunes.

From the official description: Explore Middle-earth and experience the epic adventure of “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” with the official iOS app. Learn about Bilbo Baggins’ quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor and the band of thirteen dwarves that join him and Gandalf the Grey as they embark across the wastelands of the Lonely Mountain through exclusive artwork, interactive character galleries, and production videos presented by director Peter Jackson.

View a selection of animated character portraits, travel through a detailed map of Middle-earth and explore the stunning narrative imagery of “The Scroll” artwork to immerse yourself in the world of Hobbits, Dwarves, Elves, Orcs, deadly Wargs, giant Spiders and a fearsome Dragon.

Hobbit Movies features:
• Interactive Map of Middle-earth
• 360º views of scenic locations and settings
• “The Scroll”, a narrative art piece
• Animated lenticular character portraits
• Peter Jackson’s Production Journals
• Character image galleries and bios
• Downloads for iPad, iPhone, and Facebook
• Social integration with Facebook and Twitter

SEP 15, 2012

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Character Gallery

Just released… a new gallery of character photos from The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey with portraits of Bilbo, Gandalf, and all of Thorin’s company of dwarves.

SEP 18, 2012

Warner Bros. details Tolkien Week Activities

Trailer Debut Leads Up to 75th Anniversary of Publication of The Hobbit and Worldwide Hobbit Day, Marking the Birthdays of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins

Burbank, CA, September 17, 2012—Warner Bros. Pictures, New Line Cinema and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) are joining the worldwide celebration of Tolkien Week with the debut of the highly anticipated theatrical trailer for “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” on September 19, 2012. The first in a trilogy of films adapting the enduringly popular masterpiece The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien, “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” is directed by Oscar® winner Peter Jackson, who previously brought to the screen the blockbuster “The Lord of the Rings” Trilogy. The week-long Tolkien Week celebration encompasses the 75th anniversary of the publication of The Hobbit novel and the worldwide celebration of Hobbit Day.

The American Tolkien Society first proclaimed Hobbit Day and Tolkien Week in 1978, though Hobbit Day celebrations existed prior to its official recognition. Tolkien fans the world over celebrate by having parties and feasts emulating Hobbit celebrations as described in the books.

The new trailer is set to debut on broadcast and online media on September 19, 2012, then roll out in theaters around the world throughout the day. The first satellite feed will be coordinated worldwide at 14:00 Greenwich Time; the second satellite feed at 17:00 Greenwich Time.

The celebration will continue on Friday, September 21, with activities related to the 75th anniversary of the book’s publication, which occurred on that same day in 1937.

On Saturday, September 22, fans around the world will recognize Hobbit Day—marking the birthdays of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins, the Hobbits who are the unlikely heroes of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, respectively—with Hobbit Day parties and celebrations. Bilbo and Frodo were both said to be born on the same day of different years, Bilbo in the year 2890 and Frodo in the year of 2968 in the Third Age (1290 and 1368, respectively, in Shire-reckoning, the Hobbits’ own calendar).
Throughout early September, the Facebook page for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey will roll out a series of features and ideas to create a fun, communal experience leading up to Tolkien Week, including “How to Throw a Hobbit Party” instructions, a “Fan of the Week” contest, and a special app on which fans will be able to share and collect recipes inspired by Middle-earth.

SEP 20, 2012

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Trailer #2 debuts

THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY Trailer #2 has debuted on Apple: trailers.apple.com/trailers/wb/thehobbit/

You can also visit the official movie website to make your own trailer with alternate endings.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

iTunes Movie Trailers Watch in HD In Theaters 12/14/12

SEP 28, 2012

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Dwarves

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OCT 6, 2012

Riddles In The Dark

This recently launched app let’s you try your hand at the infamous riddle challenge between Bilbo and Gollum.

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OCT 6, 2012

NZ Post to issue commemorative Hobbit stamps and coins

NZ Post has announced that it will issue official stamps as well as legal tender commemorative coins from Middle-earth. The stamps and coins go on sale November 1; pre-orders are being accepted through NZ Post’s website.

http://stamps.nzpost.co.nz/thehobbit

OCT 15, 2012

Guardians of Middle Earth release dates

Release dates for the upcoming video game Guardians of Middle-earth (@GuardiansMe on Twitter) have been announced, and the box art has been revealed.  The game will be available December 4, 2012 on PlayStation Network and later this fall on Xbox LIVE Arcade. It will also be available for purchase at select retailers beginning in early December.

In Guardians of Middle-earth, gamers team up as the most powerful heroes from the greatest fantasy epic of all time, bringing up to 10 players together in a competitive multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) game.  Featuring tie-ins to the upcoming film, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the game allows players to develop and master more than 20 iconic characters. Play as Gandalf, Gollum, Legolas, Sauron and more, forming memorable and unlikely alliances with and against friends. Gamers will have the ability to connect with other players via an in-game voice communication system, as well as access to a comprehensive online stat and leader board system where they can track friends’ victories and defeats, and more.

For more information on pricing and downloadable content, check out the game website news

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OCT 27, 2012

Gollum Dives Into Wellington Airport

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A 13 metre long Gollum dove into Wellington Airport on Thursday night to catch fish swimming in the main terminal building.

The Gollum creation was designed and facilitated by Richard Taylor and Weta’s workshop supervisor Rob Gillies to create an unforgettable entry into the airport, the gateway of the Wellington region. More info

here: https://www.facebook.com/WetaWorkshop

OCT 30, 2012

Guardians of Middle-earth exclusive videos

The upcoming video game, Guardians of Middle-earth (@GuardiansMe on Twitter) is offering a series of tutorial videos delving into the new competitive console gaming experience. To view the first episode of the brief tutorial series exclusively on IGN, click here: http://www.ign.com/videos/2012/10/29/guardians-of-middle-earth-moba-mastery-pt-1

In Guardians of Middle-earth, gamers can play as key characters from The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and  team up as the most powerful heroes from the greatest fantasy epic of all time, bringing up to 10 players together in a competitive multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) game. Guardians of Middle-earth will be available December 2012 at select retail stores and via download for Xbox LIVE Arcade for Xbox 360 and PlayStation Network; rated T for Teen.

Oct 30, 2012

TheOneRing promotes fan screenings

Fan-run website TheOneRing.net has started up its event page to encourage Tolkienites world-wide to organize and meet, especially for midnight movies on the first premiere day of The Hobbit.

TheOneRing organized similar events for Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings Trilogy, with some events checking in at more than 1,200 fans and  well over 10,000 fans participating world wide. Tickets for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey go on sale November 7, leaving would-be attendees and organizers only a little time to select a theater to get together and watch the movie with their fellow fans.

Nov 8, 2012

Tickets for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey now on sale

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Advance tickets are now on sale in the US and Canada for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

Purchase your tickets on Fandango or MovieTickets.com to receive a free song download from the film’s upcoming soundtrack.

For a listing of theaters showing the movie in HFR 3D, click here.

NOV 12, 2012

Guardians of Middle-earth announced for Xbox Live Arcade

Guardians of Middle-earth (@GuardiansMe on Twitter) will be available Dec. 5, 2012 worldwide via download on Xbox LIVE® Arcade for the Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system from Microsoft. Guardians of Middle-earth was previously confirmed for release on PlayStation®Network on Dec. 4, 2012.

Guardians of Middle-earth, with more than 20 Guardian characters, will be available for $14.99 on PlayStation Network, and for 1200 Microsoft Points on Xbox LIVE Arcade for Xbox 360. A separate Season Pass can be purchased for $14.99, or 1200 Microsoft Points, and provides discounted access to a significant amount of additional game content to be released in the future, including Guardian characters, map skins and a new gameplay mode. The game and the Season Pass are available for bundled purchase in select retail stores across North America for a price of $29.99 beginning December 4.

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NOV 28, 2012

World Premiere of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey!

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Watch the world premiere of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey live from New Zealand. Warner Bros. is offering a live stream of the red carpet arrivals, plus a special performance by Neil Finn. More details here: http://bit.ly/HobbitPremiere

NOV 30, 2012

A first-hand account of the World Premiere

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Larry D. Curtis, a senior member of the TheOneRing.net staff, was on hand for the Wellington premiere of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and offers this report…

WELLINGTON — “Wellington has already proved it knows how to party, so this takes things to the next level!”

So said Peter Hambleton from the world premiere of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in Wellington, New Zealand. It was an amazing spectacle with well over 100,000 people gathered on 600 meters of red carpet to watch the stars of the film arrive.

The event was carried live on websites around the globe with nine cameras, including helicopter shots. Some fans arrived early in the morning to choose the best spots in hopes of getting autographs and photos of stars such as Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage and of course, Sir Peter Jackson, the film’s director and co-screenwriter and the toast of the town.

Andy Serkis, who reprises his role as Gollum, also brought an enormous cheer when he showed up with his wife and a big grin and signed autographs for fans. Every actor seemed to make a big splash but Cate Blanchett, despite playing a relatively small role in the film, seemed to make fans the most manic for an autograph. She, like others in the cast, brought along her family to experience the wonder of the event.

Katie Jackson was also in attendance. In an interview shown on the big screen at the event, she revealed that she had not seen the movie yet, on the advice of her father who wanted her to experience it for the first time at the premiere.

The big showing was at the Embassy Theater, which featured high frame rate equipment, the latest in Dolby sound and RealD 3D technology. Attendee James Cameron quipped, “High frame rate is the future.”

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DEC 18, 2012

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Breaks Records, Tops Worldwide Box Office

First film in Peter Jackson’s epic “The Hobbit” Trilogy takes in an estimated worldwide $223 million in its opening weekend.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey soared to the top of the global box office in a record-breaking opening, dominating the weekend with an estimated $84.775 million domestically and $138.2 million internationally, for a worldwide estimated total of $223 million, including a record-breaking $15.1 from IMAX theatres worldwide. Domestically, the film broke records for largest December opening in motion picture history, including Christmas/holiday weekends. It is also the largest opening for any film in the canon of “The Lord of the Rings.”

The CinemaScore coming out of the weekend was an overall A from all audiences, with an A+ from moviegoers under 18. Opening day showings, starting at midnight on December 14, were sold out, some weeks in advance, and thousands of fans waited in line to be among the first to see the movie.

JAN 19, 2013

Lawyer’s Amazingly Detailed Analysis of Bilbo’s Contract

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From Wired:  James Daily, a lawyer and co-author of The Law and Superheroes, typically focuses his legal critiques on the superhero world at the Law and the Multiverse website he runs with fellow lawyer and co-author Ryan Davidson. Today, Daily takes a look a very important cultural document for Wired: The contract between Bilbo Baggins and the dwarves in The Hobbit.

Ordinarily I don’t discuss legal issues relating to fictional settings that are dramatically different from the real world in terms of their legal system. Thus, Star Wars, Star Trek, Tolkien’s Middle Earth, etc. are usually off-limits because we can’t meaningfully apply real-world law to them. But the contract featured in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was just too good a topic to pass up, especially since you can buy a high-quality replica of it that is over 5 feet long unfolded.

First, it seems fairly clear (to me, anyway) that Tolkien wrote the Shire (where hobbits live) as a close analog to pastoral England, with its similar legal and political structures. For example, the Shire has a mayor and sheriffs, and there is a system of inheritance similar to the common law. The common law fundamentals of contract law have not changed significantly since the time that the Shire is meant to evoke, so it makes sense that the contract would be broadly similar to a modern contract (and likewise that we could apply modern contract law to it).

So, without further ado, let’s get to it.

The Contract in General

hobbit-deed

As mentioned, the contract is quite long. This is in contrast with the contract as described in the book, which is very terse. Its terms amounted to this:

For your hospitality our sincerest thanks, and for your offer of professional assistance our grateful acceptance. Terms: cash on delivery, up to and not exceeding one fourteenth of total profits (if any); all travelling expenses guaranteed in any event; funeral expenses to be defrayed by us or our representatives, if occasion arises and the matter is not otherwise arranged for.

Even in the book’s version we see an issue: the dwarves accept Bilbo’s “offer” but then proceed to give terms. This is not actually an acceptance but rather a counter-offer, since they’re adding terms. In the end it doesn’t matter because Bilbo effectively accepts the counter-offer by showing up and rendering his services as a burglar, but the basic point is that the words of a contract do not always have the legal effect that they claim to have. Sometimes you have to look past the form to the substance.

But back to the movie version: It has at least 40 major sections and numerous footnotes and digressions in smaller type. We will begin at the beginning and go on till we reach the end, except where the form of the contract requires some jumping around.

Bilbo’s Obligations to the Dwarves

Two clauses describe Bilbo’s primary obligations:

I, the undersigned, [referred to hereinafter as Burglar,] agree to travel to the Lonely Mountain, path to be determined by Thorin Oakenshield, who has a right to alter the course of the journey at his so choosing, without prior notification and/or liability for accident or injury incurred.

The aforementioned journey and subsequent extraction from the Lonely Mountain of any and all goods, valuables and chattels [which activities are described collectively herein as the Adventure] shall proceed in a timely manner and with all due care and consideration as seen fit by said Thorin Oakenshield and companions, numbering thirteen more or less, to wit, the Company.

All contracts require some consideration from all parties to the contract.  Consideration, in the contract sense, means a bargained-for performance or promise. Restatement (Second) of Contracts § 71(1). Basically, this is something of value given or promised as part of the agreement. This can be anything that the parties agree is valuable; the classic example is a single peppercorn.  Whitney v. Stearns, 16 Me. 394, 397 (1839).

Here, Bilbo is promising to go with the Company to the Lonely Mountain and performing various services there, including extracting the treasure, plus a few more services we’ll get to later. In turn, as we shall see, the Company promises to pay Bilbo one fourteenth of the profits, plus a few other obligations. Thus we have “a promise for a promise,” otherwise known as a bilateral contract.

There are some other details to notice in these clauses. One is the use of defined terms (e.g. “referred to hereinafter as Burglar”). The parties to a contract may define terms however they wish, even in ways that contradict the definition used in statutes or regulations.

This is important in this case because of the use of the defined term “Burglar.”  Contracts to do something illegal are ordinarily unenforceable (e.g. collecting on an illegal gambling debt). But here what matters is not that the parties used the word ‘burglar’ but rather what sort of meaning they assigned to that defined term. As we shall see, the contract doesn’t require Bilbo to do anything illegal (or at least not obviously illegal), and so the contract will probably not fail for use of a questionable term.

Thorin

Thorin’s Right to Alter the Journey

These two clauses also pose something of a contradiction.  On the one hand we see the first of many liability waivers:

[Thorin has] a right to alter the course of the journey at his so choosing, without prior notification and/or liability for accident or injury incurred.” But on the other hand we see this explicit obligation of care: “[the Adventure] shall proceed in a timely manner and with all due care and consideration.

Ordinarily “due care and consideration” signifies taking on liability for negligence, so this conflicts with the earlier liability waiver. Perhaps the two can be reconciled by the phrase “as seen fit by said Thorin Oakenshield and companions.” Thorin and Co. could always claim that the amount of care and consideration they saw fit was extremely minimal, though that runs the risk of making the clause meaningless, which courts usually don’t like to do.  ”As a general proposition, whenever possible, the law favors reconciliation of clauses within a contract which appear contradictory.” City of Columbia v. Paul N. Howard Co., 707 F.2d 338, 340 (8th Cir. 1983). Taken together with the numerous other waivers and disclaimers, I think a court would probably conclude that Thorin & Co. were not taking on any particular duty of care. ”A writing is interpreted as a whole.”  Restatement (Second) of Contracts § 202(2).

Waivers or disclaimers of liability are an important part of many contracts. These can include waivers of a product warranty (seen all the time in software license agreements) and waivers for liability due to negligence (often required before doing something dangerous like skydiving). But there are limits to liability waivers. While a party to a contract can ordinarily waive liability for negligence (although not in every jurisdiction), one cannot waive liability for gross negligence, recklessness, or intentional misconduct.  So the numerous (and sweeping!) waivers and disclaimers may not be as effective as they appear at first glance.

So far the Dwarves haven’t committed any unsalvageable drafting errors or done anything that might jeopardize the validity of the contract. We’ll see if that keeps up!

Waivers for Notoriety and ‘Unlooked-for’ Misfortune

The next section is yet another waiver:

Burglar holds harmless and without blame in perpetuity the Company and its successors for any notoriety, incarceration, or proceedings brought against, in regard to or as a result of the adventure or any activities related thereto.

Also includes slander, libel, loss of face or of social standing in country of Burglar’s origin.

Remedies shall similarly not be sought for any unlooked-for misfortune befalling Burglar’s home during his absence.

The smaller text is written in the margin or otherwise in smaller writing. There’s a lot of that kind of writing in the margins that we’ll be referring to as we go through the contract. For the most part the size of the print doesn’t matter, but there are some contract terms, such as warranty disclaimers, that must be printed conspicuously, which usually means large print or all caps. UCC §§ 2-316(2),  1-201(b)(10).  At common law we suspect the rules were even looser.

This set of waivers is not particularly objectionable. As discussed in the prior post, the actual scope of the waiver may not be as broad as the language suggests. For example, if the Dwarves intentionally burned down Bag End, this waiver would not prevent Bilbo from suing them for the damage.

It may bear mentioning that the slander waiver only protects the Company. Bilbo could still sue the actual slanderer, of course. Traditionally this has been easier to do in England than the United States. At common law, for example, truth was no defense to criminal libel (also known as seditious libel). Garrison v. Louisiana, 379 U.S. 64, 67-68 (1964).

The-Hobbit_01-660x439

Payment (and Funeral Expenses) for the Burglar

Now we come to some terms of the contract actually described in the book:

Cash on delivery, up to and not exceeding one fourteenth of the total profit [if any]. Not including any of the gross paid to other parties in lieu of royalties or help and provisions given or loaned.

All traveling expenses guaranteed in any event. But refer to attached and appended conditions, clauses and riders regarding any Return Journey. ‘Traveling expenses’ shall be understood to mean basic fare as seen fit by the Company. ‘Luxury’ catering or accomodation over and above this standard shall be enjoyed only at Burglar’s considerable [but justifiable] expense.

Funeral expenses to be defrayed by us or our representatives if occasion arises and the matter is not otherwise arranged for. Basic funeral to ‘commoner’ or peasant standard is allowed for only. Lavish ceremonies and jewelled (sic) or gilded coffins not provided. Plain pine box is the normal standard. Transport of any remains, in whole or in part, back to the country of Burglar’s origin is not included.

Most of these clauses are fairly straightforward. In terms of the plot, the more important clause is the one regarding profits. Already we see part of the definition: it excludes royalties paid to others and anything given or loaned to Bilbo counts against it. In the margins we see some more relevant terms:

Burglar acknowledges and agrees that each item of the Company’s valuables, goods, money or merchandise which he recovers from the Lonely Mountain [the ‘Recovered Goods’] during the term of his engagement with the Company, shall remain the Property of the Company at all times, and in all respects, without limitation.

Furthermore, the company shall retain any and all Recovered Goods until such a time as a full and final reckoning can be made, from which the Total Profits can then be established.  Then, and only then, will the Burglar’s fourteenth share be calculated and decided.

So Bilbo can’t just pick up some treasure that he likes and decide that it’s part of (or the entirety of) his share.  Instead, as provided by yet another clause, he will be paid in gold or its equivalent, in correct weight or of good quality, respectively. And he can’t lay claim to any particular article of treasure. Indeed, the Dwarves could conceivably purchase gold from somewhere else and pay him with that.  He’s not entitled to any part of the treasure itself as such.

There are several ways in which these contract terms affect the plot. The book has been out for about eighty years, but nonetheless, spoiler alert:

As anyone who has read the book knows, the definition of Bilbo’s “fourteenth share of total profits” goes directly to a major issue in the plot, namely Bilbo’s taking of the Arkenstone. In the book Bilbo feels comfortable taking it, since he figures it’s worth his fourteenth share, and the contract didn’t say which fourteenth he could take. This contract eliminates that possibility. We doubt that the plot will actually be modified to take this into account, but it may be an example of the writer of the contract being a bit too clever.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Non-Disclosure Agreements: Maintaining “Utmost Secrecy”

Next we have a non-disclosure or confidentiality clause:

Confidentiality is of utmost importance and must be strictly maintained at all times.  During the course of his employment with the Company, Burglar will hear, see, learn, apprehend, comprehend, and, in short, gain knowledge of particular facts, ideas, plans, strategies, theories, geography, cartography, iconography, means, tactics and/or policies, whether actual, tangible, conceptual, historical or fanciful.  Burglar undertakes and agrees to maintain this knowledge in utmost secrecy and confidentiality, and to neither divulge nor make known said knowledge by any means, including but not limited to speech, writing, demonstration, re-enactment, mime, or storage and retrieval within means or apparatus currently known or unknown or as yet unthought of.

(It is a plain drafting error to refer to “the course of [the Burglar’s] employment with the company”, since a later clause specifies in no uncertain terms that “Burglar is in all respects an independent contractor, and not an employee … of the Company.”)

This confidentiality agreement is a little overbroad, since by its strict terms it requires Bilbo to keep confident anything he learns on the journey, not just things he learns in confidence.  The fact that information is already publicly known is usually a defense to a breach of confidentiality, since the information wasn’t actually secret.  Overbreadth probably isn’t fatal to the clause, however.

What’s really unusual about this part of the contract is that it doesn’t appear to include a clause acknowledging that monetary damages alone would be inadequate compensation in the event of a breach of confidentiality.  The purpose of such a clause is to make it easier to obtain an injunction ordering the breaching party to stop disclosing the confidential information.  Ordinarily breach of contract results in a payment of monetary damages, and getting an injunction usually requires showing, among other things, that those damages are insufficient to remedy the harm done.

What’s doubly weird about this is that the contract does have this clause later on:

Burglar acknowledges that monetary damages alone will be adequate compensation for a breach of this contract by the Company.

It’s curious that the contract only contemplates injunctions defensively (i.e. protecting the Company from them) and not offensively (i.e. making it easier to enjoin Bilbo).

Mandatory Binding Arbitration in the Dwarvish Tongue

There are also a group of clauses dealing with disputes arising under the contract. This is an important part of many contracts. If you’re going to the trouble of creating a formal legal agreement, then you might as well contemplate what might happen if the deal goes bad. Somewhat anachronistically, the contract contains an arbitration clause:

Disputes arising between the Contract Parties shall be heard and judged by an arbitrator of the Company’s choosing

I say “somewhat anachronistically” because although arbitration has a long history in the common law — going back at least as far as 1609 — it was for centuries frowned upon by the courts. One early case, Vynior’s Case, held that mandatory arbitration clauses (i.e. requiring a party to a contract to submit to arbitration) were revocable.  In other words, parties could submit to arbitration but only by ongoing, mutual agreement. It was not until the 1800s that mandatory arbitration really became acceptable in either England or the US.  See, e.g., Burchell v. Marsh, 58 U.S. 344 (1854).

The other issue is that the clause allows the Company to choose the arbitrator.  This is highly unusual and may actually invalidate the arbitration clause.  In order  to comport with due process, a mandatory arbitration agreement must, among other things, provide a neutral, impartial decision maker.  Typically this is done by allowing the parties to jointly select an arbitrator or to have an impartial third party (such as an arbitration agency) select one.

The next part of the arbitration paragraph is a rarity for an American lawyer:

… and all pleas shall be pleaded, shrewed [sic], defended, answered, debated and judged in the Dwarvish Tongue

Obviously this is a significant disadvantage for Bilbo, as he evidently cannot read (and presumably cannot speak) Dwarvish. Choice of language clauses like this one are much more common in international contracts than in contracts between parties in the United States. They are also much more common in contracts that contain arbitration agreements rather than forum selection clauses (e.g. “any disputes arising under this contract will be heard in the courts of Capital City, State X”) because in most countries the courts only deal in one official language, making a choice of language clause redundant. But when the case will go to arbitration, the chosen arbitrator could potentially speak multiple languages.

However, the most common reason for a choice of language clause is when the contract itself is translated into multiple languages for the benefit of the parties. In that case it is common for the contract to specify that one version is the “authoritative” version.

Jurisdiction: The Shire vs. the Dwarven Kingdom?

The one thing that leaps out at me about this contract is that it doesn’t contain a choice of law clause.  Such a clause allows the parties to specify what jurisdiction’s law will govern the contract. This is particularly useful when multiple jurisdictions may potentially apply. The area of the law that deals with figuring out which court has jurisdiction and which law applies is known as conflict of laws.

Conflict of laws is a complex subject. Typically it is a stand-alone course in law school. So we won’t go into too much detail here, but suffice to say that arguably both the law of the Shire and the law of the Dwarven Kingdom could conceivably apply to this contract. Some of the factors that a court might consider include:

  • The parties are a Hobbit of the Shire and a group of Dwarves.
  • The contract was signed in the Shire.
  • The contract concerns services to be performed in the Dwarven Kingdom.
  • The most likely source of the breach of the contract occurs in the Dwarven Kingdom.

Since the applicable law is debatable, this is precisely the kind of case in which a choice of law clause makes sense, so its absence is notable.

Ownership of the Ring: Specialized Equipment?

Given the clauses describing ownership of the recovered goods, one might wonder whether the Company has a claim to the One Ring.  After all, Bilbo has expressly agreed that he has only a right to 1/14th of the profits, to be paid in a form determined by the Company, and no right to the treasure itself.  So could it be that the One Ring merely forms part of the treasure?  The contract seems to indicate otherwise.

First, the contract describes the extraction of goods from the Lonely Mountain as being the subject of the Adventure, whereas the One Ring was found underneath the Misty Mountains.  Second, the contract includes this clause:

Specialist equipment required in the execution of duties in his professional role as Burglar shall be purchased, procured, purlioned [sic] or obtained by Burglar, by whatsoever method Burglar sees fit.

The One Ring is definitely “specialist equipment” and it turns out to be required in the execution of Bilbo’s duties in his professional role as Burglar. Certainly he could not have defeated the spiders, evaded the Wood Elves, or snuck past Smaug without it (possibly only the last counts as proper burgling, but the point stands).  So the Dwarves would not appear to have any claim to the One Ring.

I probably would have left out the “purloined” part, though.  That comes dangerously close to making the contract unenforceable on the grounds that the subject matter of the contract is illegal.

Closing Thoughts

One the whole, the contract is pretty well written.  There are some anachronisms, unnecessary clauses, typos, and a small number of clear drafting errors, but given the contract’s length and its role in the film (which is to say not a huge one, especially in the particulars) it’s an impressive piece of work. I congratulate prop-maker and artist Daniel Reeve on a strong piece of work.  A lesser studio or artist might have been tempted to go with several pages of lorum ipsum written in Cirth.  If you’d like an even more accurate replica of the contract, Weta’s online store has a version with hand-made touches by Mr. Reeve.


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