Good news: moving to!

Many thanks to those of you who have written to let me know how much you will miss this blog. One such person was Calisuri, one of the co-founders of and also one of my interviewees for my Frodo Franchise book. He very kindly asked me to join the staff of TORn! I didn’t need to reflect very long before accepting. The people from TORn that I interviewed were incredibly friendly and helpful, and the whole site supported my book once it was published. It’s great to be able to keep up the friendships I made and maybe to participate in TORn events in the future–and to become a part of a wonderful institution that I came to know so well through writing about its history.

I’ll only be contributing to TORn on an occasional basis. I’ve always felt that the strong point of my blog has been when I can explain aspects of the film industry and help interpret news items–like when the lawsuits were going on and MGM was going through its bankruptcy process. Luckily nothing like that is happening at the moment, with The Hobbit safely into production and progress being made. Still, whenever I feel I can contribute something, I will. And now that I’m working on my book on Tolkien’s novels, maybe I can branch out and contribute occasional pieces about the literary side of things. I also frequent the Message Boards on TORn and occasionally post something, so maybe I’ll see you there!

No sequel for The Frodo Franchise

[Added August 26: Turns out that my online writing about the Tolkien films has not come to an abrupt end. I won't be posting here, but I've accepted an invitation from to join their staff and contribute occasionally. I'm sure most of you are TORn readers, so I hope you'll find my posts when they appear. More details here.

As many of you know, I have been hoping to write a follow-up book to The Frodo Franchise, dealing with the making of The Hobbit. My plan was to examine the impact of digital filmmaking technology on the way the production team. I also wanted to look at how globalization has affected the composition of that team.

After three and a half years of enquiries, I now learn that I will not be able to do such a book. Naturally I am disappointed, since I find the two topics fascinating ones, and a book dealing with them would have made a big contribution to the field of film studies. It would have been welcomed by the loyal fans who have been following Peter Jackson’s film adaptations for so long. Indeed, I know from many kind comments on the message boards of and elsewhere that fans enjoyed my first book and were hoping for a second.

Now that I know I will not be tackling a second book, I’m going to stop posting new entries on this blog. I’ll be turning my full attention to other projects. One of these is a book-length analysis of stylistic and narrative techniques in Tolkien’s two hobbit novels. That’s already well underway, and I have over 150 manuscript pages drafted. Some of you are aware that I am also an Egyptologist. I’m in the research stage of a large book project on the statuary of the Amarna period. I am primarily a film historian, and will keep my husband’s and my two textbooks up to date, as well as contributing to our joint blog and tackling other film projects. I have also been asked to write a short account of the films for a reference book on Tolkien to be published by Oxford University Press.

I’m very grateful to all of you who have sent me links over the roughly four and a half years during which I have been blogging on this site. You have helped make my coverage far larger than I could have managed as a one-person operation.

I am also grateful to all the filmmakers and other people connected to the LOTR film franchise who allowed me to interview them for The Frodo Franchise. Thanks also to those who weren’t interviewed for the book but who helped me in other ways during my visits to Wellington. I am still amazed that I was able to write the book entirely as I had planned it, despite the fact that my topic was huge. My many interviewees are largely responsible for that.

As to The Hobbit, like other fans I shall follow its progress and look forward to finally seeing its two parts as the rest of Tolkien’s saga comes to the screen.

I shall leave the Frodo Franchise blog online, since it could prove useful to other researchers. It provides a pretty thorough record of the events that took place during the many delays and obstacles that the Hobbit project endured. (In particular, last year’s labor dispute and the dealings between the New Zealand government and Warner Bros. were covered here in, as I recall, 110 postings!) My email address remains at the top of the page, in case you want to get in touch.


The Hobbit on list of films predicted to gross over a billion dollars

For a  while The Return of the King was one of only three films that had grossed over a billion dollars worldwide. With inflation and surcharges for 3D movies, there are now ten films on that list. (We’re also talking dollars unadjusted for inflation, so the billion-plus club isn’t as hard to crack as it used to be.)

Box Office Mojo recently ran a story predicting which films currently in production are likely to reach that level of success. Not surprisingly, both parts of The Hobbit are mentioned as possibilities. As the author points out, “It probably won’t be as well-attended as Return of the King, though it doesn’t need to be to reach $1 billion, thanks to its 3D premiums and nine years of ticket-price inflation.”

I’m not convinced that 3D premiums are helping films anymore. I recently posted an entry on Observations on Film Art where I pointed out that since about May, theaters showing 3D versions of films are actually making less money than the ones showing 2D versions. Exhibitors are apparently starting to notice this trend, and more are choosing to show 2D versions. Variety reported this morning that Spy Kids: All the Time in the World took third place in the Friday box-office tally: “The summer’s new norm is to make about 45% of grosses off 3D screens, though that figure could be even lower this weekend with so many pics vying for 3D play and so many of “Spy Kids’” engagements opting for 2D.” (Fright Night and Conan the Barbarian also were released yesterday in 3D and 2D versions.)

If fewer exhibitors choose to show 3D prints of films, eventually the smaller number of theaters showing 3D will attract fans of that system, and those theaters will presumably start to make money again. But whether that income will be enough for studios to want to pay the extra money needed to make films in 3D in the first place is anyone’s guess. It’s quite possible that by the time the first part of The Hobbit comes out, 3D won’t be an important factor in boosting it over the $1 billion mark.

I for one got tired of 3D pretty fast. Apart from Werner Herzog’s wonderful The Cave of Forgotten Dreams, I haven’t seen a 3D print of a film since Up back in 2009. (Herzog not only found the perfect use for 3D, but his images have a more convincing, rounded three-dimensional look than anything in Avatar.) My suspicion is that The Hobbit will be a success for the same reasons that LOTR was.