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'Rings' gets rousing NZ premiere

Director Peter Jackson waves to the crowd as he films them with his video camera.
Director Peter Jackson waves to the crowd as he films them with his video camera.

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Ecstatic fans cheered 'The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King' at its world premiere in New Zealand. CNN's Andrew Stevens reports (December 1)
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WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Reuters) -- Thousands of ecstatic fans cheered "The Lord of the Rings" at the world premiere of the final installment of the award-winning movie trilogy.

Like a victorious general at the front of his army, home-grown director Peter Jackson led stars from "The Return of the King" for five km (3 miles) through central Wellington on Monday, flanked by characters clad in armor and on black horses.

Filmed in New Zealand, the "The Return of the King" is a multi-layered tale of a hobbit, Frodo, and his bid to save the world by destroying a golden ring with magical powers.

J.R.R. Tolkien, author of "The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy, invented the dwarf-like hobbits and a host of other creatures as part of his "Middle Earth" world.

Amid drifts of ticker tape thrown by fans, Jackson and cast members were besieged by crowds 10 deep as they made their way up the 470 meter-long (510 yards) red carpet to the theater.

Fans of the film trilogy spent thousands of dollars getting to New Zealand for the premiere.

Kim Ong of Singapore timed her trip to New Zealand to coincide with the premiere.

"I saw the first movie, which was wonderful. It blew us away. So since then I've been waiting forever for the premiere," she said.

Ong said she planned to spend at least a week visiting some of the film's locations in New Zealand.

The first two parts of the trilogy -- "The Fellowship of the Ring" and "The Two Towers" -- are among the highest grossing movies in box office history. They have taken in a combined $1.8 billion.

Executive producer Michael Lynne of the film's backers, New Line Cinema, a part of the Time Warner group, said Jackson had been the creative godfather of the trilogy.

The first two 'Rings' films have pulled in $1.8 billion.
The first two 'Rings' films have pulled in $1.8 billion.

"It is the end of a journey that started six years ago, and somehow together we have accomplished something truly unprecedented," he said.

The books by the South African-born Tolkien -- an Oxford professor who created languages and detailed histories for his characters and plots -- have enjoyed a huge revival since the first two films were made. The third book in the Rings trilogy, which was written mostly in the 1940s, was published in 1955.

"These movies are made for people to enjoy them, and it makes us feel incredibly humble, and proud," Jackson told the throng.

Tipped to win an Oscar for best director at next year's awards, Jackson said honors did not concern him.

"I'm just going to let everybody else decide that," he said. "You can only do what you can do. You do the very best job you can... I don't think I have any regrets.

"The Fellowship" won Oscars for make-up, cinematography, visual effects and original score, while "The Two Towers" won awards for digital effects and sound editing.

Once work finishes on his next project -- another remake of the classic "King Kong" -- Jackson said he hoped to return to making smaller New Zealand-based movies.

But it was possible a prequel to the "The Lord of the Rings," called "The Hobbit," could be made in future -- although the rights to the book had not yet been obtained, Jackson said.

Stars attending Monday's premier at Wellington's newly refurbished 852-seat art deco Embassy Theatre included Liv Tyler, Sir Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen and Elijah Wood.

The film goes on world-wide commercial release on December 17.

New Line Cinema, a subsidiary of Time Warner, parent company of CNN, is predicting at least NZ$2 billion (U.S.$1.3 billion) from this third film.

Copyright 2003 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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