By Larisa Naumenko
After blockbusting performances in the United States and Europe, “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” has continued its triumphant march into Russia, setting new box office records across the country.
Since it opened in Russia on Feb. 7, the three-hour screen version of J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic fantasy has grossed more than 104.7 million rubles ($3.4 million) and been seen by nearly 1 million people, according to a report Tuesday by Karo Premier Film Company, the movie’s distributor in Russia.
“This is a movie for the ages,” said Roman Isayev, a deputy director at Karo. “The anticipation preceding the movie was something else.”
The previous box office record in Russia was $3.05 million, set by “The Mummy Returns” over 172 days last year, Isayev said. “The Lord of the Rings” eclipsed that mark in just 11 days.
Worldwide, “The Lord of the Rings” has earned about $700 million at the box office, Isayev said.
Official box office figures have only been compiled in Russia since early 1999, Isayev said. Before that “Titanic” was estimated to be the highest grossing movie in Russia, earning about $5 million in 1998, he said.
“The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” is the first of three movies by director Peter Jackson based on Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy — unusually, director Peter Jackson filmed the movies simultaneously.
The next two installments in the trilogy, “The Two Towers” and “The Return of the King,” are slated for release later this year and next year.
Isayev ascribed the success of “The Lord of the Rings” to the interest shown in it by Tolkien fans across the country and also to the massive amount of publicity the movie received in the run-up to its Russian premiere.
Although “The Lord of the Rings” has been showing in some 20 cinemas in Moscow and more than 50 cinemas across the rest of the country, cinema managers say they have struggled to meet demand.
“I haven’t seen anything like this before,” said Dmitry Baulin, manager at the America Cinema, where the movie has been shown in English with a Russian translation via headphones. “We even had more people come in the second week than in the first.”
The America Cinema has put on one to three screenings daily, with tickets costing up to 400 rubles.
“People were willing to pay any money for the tickets, which were quickly sold out,” Baulin said. “Some were even willing to stand in the aisle when no seats were left.”
According to Isayev, tickets to the official premiere of the movie at the Pushkin cinema cost 300 rubles but were resold for as much as 2,500 rubles.
Other cinemas experienced similarly high demand.
Natalya Gavrilova, a manager at the Karo Film cinema, said that in the first four days, tickets for all the cinema’s eight daily screenings were gone by 1 p.m. A manager at Kodak Cinema World said screenings have been sold out on both weekends since the movie opened and that scalping was taking place, although the cinema’s management has tried to prevent it.
Cinema-goer Alexei Kuznetsov said that on the Sunday after the movie opened he could not get tickets for any screening at the Pyat Zvyozd cinema even though he arrived at noon. He ended up going to Kodak Cinema World and buying tickets six hours in advance. Kuznetsov added that 250 ruble tickets were being scalped for about 500 rubles.
By Tuesday there were no longer huge lines outside Kodak Cinema World or the Pushkin cinema for afternoon screenings, but managers at both cinemas said they still sell out evening showings.
The huge popularity of the movie has also boosted interest in Tolkien’s books.
Valeria Petrichenko, a 20-year-old student who helped set up an online Tolkien fan club (www.tolkien.ru), said she has noticed many new visitors on the web site.
“They said they liked the movie and asked where they could find the book online,” she said.
Petrichenko, who unlike many Tolkien fans doesn’t have a nickname derived from her idol’s works, thought it only natural that people were showing more interest in the books after seeing the movie.
“Tolkien has created an amazingly charming world where people have been able to see what they haven’t been able to find in the real world,” she said. “People have found a world that they can live in. It’s a fairy tale, of course, but a lot there is very relevant to people’s relationships in the real world.”
A Tolkien fan since she first read “The Lord of the Rings” at age 11, Petrichenko thought the movie was good but not as enjoyable as the book.
Natalya Lagunova, another long-time fan of Tolkien, started a Russian-language web site dedicated to the movie
(www.fan.theonering.net/henneth-annun) as early as 1999, when she learned Jackson had begun shooting it.
Lagunova read the first part of “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy in Russian as a college student in 1985. She got hold of the second part five years later and then read the third part in English. She credits this with helping her learn English well enough to pursue postgraduate studies in the United States. She ended up staying for seven years, started a family and gave birth to twins.
Lagunova was among a group of Tolkien fans who helped the movie’s distributor when “The Lord of the Rings” was being dubbed. The group came up with a list of recommendations for the movie’s translation, based on five different translations of the book that exist in Russian.
Lagunova said that the group’s main task was not to irritate Tolkien fans with inappropriate translations.
“We were even trying to consider Tolkien’s recommendations on the pronunciation of Elfish names,” she said.
Like Petrichenko, Lagunova thought there were some glitches in the final dubbed version of the movie and was very disappointed with the way the main character, Frodo, was dubbed.
Nevertheless, she considers the movie to be a huge cinematic event, especially for Tolkien fans.
“The movie has impressed me — I love it and criticize it all the same,” she said. “I have seen it five times and will be watching again.”