NewsWire: `Lord of the Rings' publisher journeys to bank: - The Beacon Journal

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NewsWire: `Lord of the Rings' publisher journeys to bank: -

Postby Guest » Tue Sep 02, 2003 12:00 am

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<P>Clay Harper remembers the first time he saw a screening of the <a href="" TARGET="new">New Line Cinema</a> adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's <I>Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.</I> It was the late fall of 2001, and the first of the three Peter Jackson-directed Tolkien films was set to open Dec. 19.</P>
<P>``I was a basket case,'' Harper said. ``I'd seen the trailer and clips, of course. The buzz was there. But still... you just never know. I was hopeful, but I had my fingers crossed.''</P>
<P>As a fan of Tolkien's epic saga for more than 25 years, he had a book lover's anxiety about seeing a favorite work through the eyes of someone else. Was New Zealand really going to look like Middle-earth? Was Ian McKellan the best choice to play Gandalf? How much of the book had been cut?</P>
<P>As publisher <a HREF="" TARGET="new">Houghton Mifflin</a>'s Tolkien projects director, Harper also had a lot on the line professionally. Houghton Mifflin, the official U.S. publisher of Tolkien's work for more than 60 years, had paid a hefty sum to acquire the rights to the movie tie-in volumes. What if the film trilogy was a disaster? Would they lose an entire generation of potential readers?</P>
<P>``Just in case, we put the new editions out early before the movie so we could sell as many copies as possible,'' he said. ``And to New Line's great credit, they did a great job of encouraging people to read Tolkien.''</P>
<P>As it turned out, they also had made a great movie. And it paid off for Houghton Mifflin.</P>
<P>``In the history of the company, there have only been two million-copy best sellers,'' Harper said. ``One was Tolkien's <I>The Silmarillion</I> in 1977, and the other was <I>The Lord of the Rings</I> in 2001.''</P>
<P>What has happened since this has been ``phenomenal,'' he said. ``Because the movies come out late in the year, the sales spill over into the next. The books just keep selling, and we're not done yet.''</P>
<P>The DVD edition of the second movie, <I>The Two Towers</I>, came out last week. It further whets the appetite for Tolkien by including a preview of <I>The Return of the King</I>, the conclusion of the epic, which hits theaters Dec. 17.</P>
<P>The latest addition -- and edition -- to the Tolkien publishing program (dozens of volumes by Tolkien, about Tolkien, about the movies, etc., plus readers guides, calendars and gift books) is a $20 collectible one-volume paperback. The cover features the Dark Lord Sauron's gloved hand with an embossed ring -- as in the ``One Ring to rule them all/ One Ring to find them, /One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them'' legend, which appears in its entirety on a color frontispiece. The deluxe edition also has flaps that fold out to show color versions of the original maps of Middle-earth.</P>
<P>``These maps have been in the hardcover, but we wanted to do something special for the final film,'' Harper said. ``The one-volume movie tie-in is the cornerstone of the Tolkien publishing program.''</P>
<P>More than 2 million copies of the one-volume trade paperback have been sold in the United States the past three years. More than 25 million Tolkien-related books have been sold.</P>
<P>``That's just in the U.S.,'' Harper said. ``Tolkien has been a cultural phenomenon for years. <I>The Lord of the Rings</I> has sold 50 million copies worldwide. But there's been nothing like the audience growth we've experienced coinciding with the new movies. I know of no other publishing experience like it.''</P>

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