- Definition of Terms
- Versions for DVD and Blu-ray
- Versions for VHS and VCD
- Sidenote: HD Format
This page gives a comprehensive list of versions released for individual LOTR films, and for Trilogy sets.
[Images and additional text forthcoming.]
DEFINITION OF TERMS
A number of DVD, VHS, and Blu-ray releases appeared along the road from Fellowship of the Ring to Return of the King. Terms are not always used specifically or consistently, but these versions may be labeled as:
- “Standard Edition” – Released for ongoing sales by any distributing outlet, and usually includes just the theatrical edition of the film, plus minimal special/bonus features, typically all on one disc. This term is often applied to the generic one-disc edition, regardless of whether it is Full Screen or Widescreen.
- “Special Edition” – Released for ongoing sales by any distributing outlet, but includes something different from the “standard” edition – usually an additional disc of special/bonus features, or a “combo pack” of Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital Copy.
- “Limited Edition” or “Collector’s Edition” or “Deluxe Edition” – Released in smaller quantities or for a shorter time than are the “standard” or “special” editions, and usually containing some kind of official collectible. Often, editions with special collectible items are numbered (e.g., #3854 of 5000) and the number appears somewhere on the case or on some item packed inside the case.
- “Exclusive Edition” – Released only by one store/chain or only in one global region, with additional content or collectible items which only that store’s/region’s edition contains.
VERSIONS FOR DVD AND BLU-RAY
For details on VHS and VCD, see the next section.
Theatrical Version Releases
STANDARD THEATRICAL EDITIONS
- Theatrical FOTR, TTT, and ROTK DVD releases (2 DVDs), with both Full Screen and Widescreen available.
- Theatrical FOTR, TTT, and ROTK Blu-ray releases (2 Blu-ray discs), with only Widescreen available.
SPECIAL THEATRICAL EDITIONS
- Theatrical FOTR, TTT, and ROTK Combo Pack releases (Blu-ray plus DVD).
- Theatrical LOTR Trilogy DVD edition (6 DVDs). Slipcase holds the three standard Theatrical edition clamshell cases. Both Full Screen and Widescreen Trilogy versions available. The Full Screen slipcase is lighter brown and gold-tones. The Widescreen slipcase is darker brown to black. (The Canadian slipcases differ from the US versions. They feature The One Ring, and distinguish the versions by a color bar at the top – silver for Full Screen and gold for Widescreen. One side has the titles in English, the other side in French, and the spine in both languages.)
LIMITED THEATRICAL EDITIONS
- There were also two-packs of the Theatrical FOTR + TTT Full Screen DVDs and Widescreen DVDs available (perhaps for a limited time before the Trilogy boxsets were issued), and a three-film collection – Region 1 (subtitles in both English and Spanish, except for FOTR) and three-pack without the slipcase – Region 7.
EXCLUSIVE THEATRICAL EDITIONS
- Theatrical DVD individual film versions with metallic/foil slipcovers, from Walmart.
- Theatrical Blu-ray individual film versions with embossed foil slipcover, from Canada. Special Edition/Édition Speciále with audio and subtitles in both English and Canadian French.
- Theatrical Blu-ray individual film versions with steelbook (artwork same as standard case), from BestBuy. Single-disc Blu-ray with audio and subtitles in both English and Spanish.
- Theatrical Blu-ray Trilogy edition with steelbook case with holographic printing. This was a pre-order special, from BestBuy.
- Theatrical Blu-ray Trilogy edition with exclusive Andúril miniature sword replica, from BestBuy.
- Theatrical Blu-ray Trilogy edition with exclusive One Ring replica on a chain, specific sales outlet unknown.
Extended Version Releases
STANDARD EXTENDED EDITIONS
- Extended Edition for individual films in a 4-disc DVD version, with 2 DVDs of the film and commentaries, and 2 DVDs of special features. Available only in Widescreen.
- Extended Edition for individual films in a 5-disc Blu-ray version, with 2 Blu-ray with the film and commentaries, and 3 DVDs of special features (the additional disc being Costa Botes’ behind-the-scenes documentary previously found only in the 2006 Limited Edition). Available only in Widescreen.
SPECIAL EXTENDED EDITIONS
- Extended Edition for the LOTR Trilogy in a 12-disc DVD version or 15-disc Blu-ray version, both available only in Widescreen. Each has a slipcase to hold the cases for the three individual films.
LIMITED EXTENDED EDITIONS
An Extended DVD Edition Platinum Edition Collector’s Gift Set was issued for each individual film. Different premium collectibles and special DVD were packaged with each set. A limited number of sets were produced.
- FOTR – Polystone bookend castings of The Argonath, from Sideshow/Weta. Bonus DVD: National Geographic Special “Beyond the Movie.” Exclusive Decipher LOTR Trading Card Game card packet.
- TTT – Gollum polystone collectible from Sideshow/Weta. Bonus DVD: Weta documentary on The Making of a Collectible. Companion booklet of the concept art and process in the making of the Gollum collectible.
- ROTK – Minas Tirith keepsake box (artwork by Alan Lee), from Sideshow/Weta. Bonus DVD: Howard Shore: Creating “The Lord of The Ring” Symphony – A Composers Journey Through Middle-earth (52 minutes).
EXCLUSIVE EXTENDED EDITIONS
- Extended DVD Trilogy (Region 3) with Wooden Storage Box. This was a promotional item produced in limited numbers in the Region 3 (Asian) market. It included the Extended DVD Trilogy and a promotional set of playing cards in cheesecloth drawstring bag, stored in an ornately carved and crafted wooden case. When these show up on eBay, which rarely happens, they often are listed for a starting bid of at least several hundred dollars.
- Extended Blu-ray Trilogy edition with six chess set figurines, from BestBuy.
Limited Edition (Theatrical + Extended) Version Releases
LIMITED EDITION/THEATRICAL PLUS EXTENDED
- The Limited Edition DVD releases for each film included one double-sided DVD, with the film split in half to fit and with both Theatrical and Extended versions threaded on the same DVD. Each release also included one single-sided DVD with Costa Botes’ behind-the-scenes documentary for that film. Limited Editions were available individually, or in three-pack – shrink-wrapped together over a brown cardstock base box holding all three digi-pack cases.
VERSIONS FOR VHS AND VCD
In my research, I found a few editions available on alternate media that are obscure in the US (like VCD – Video Compact Disc) or moving toward obsolete (like VHS – Video Home System tapes).
VHS tapes were produced for all three films, in the Theatrical version and the Extended version. They appear to be available in Widescreen only, and apparently were not issued in Trilogy editions with slipcases.
- The FOTR and TTT Theatrical editions had 1 videotape and the ROTK Theatrical release had 2 videotapes.
- The Extended versions each had 2 videotapes.
VCD has the convenience of being playable on a personal computer. They were more popular during the era and in places where access to DVD players and online streaming was limited. Often, they use subtitles that are not always available (or not available yet) for the DVD versions. I have (or have seen) LOTR VCDs that were originally distributed from Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Turkey.
VCD sets typically split a film that would normally require 1 DVD and put it onto 3 VCDs. (FOTR and TTT take 3 VCDs, and ROTK takes 4.) From my research, it appears that VCD Theatrical editions were produced in both Full Screen and Widescreen versions. I have not found any evidence of VCDs for the Extended edition. Many VCDs I have seen are produced on the higher quality Gold CDs.
SIDENOTE: HD FORMAT
No LOTR films were released on HD discs. This media format would eventually lose in competition with Blu-ray, but it was still available in the mid-2000 decade, had the distributors decided to use it. As a comparison, it’s intriguing to note that the Harry Potter series produced HD editions for the first five films, all released in December 2007. The Lord of the Rings waited a long time to issue high-definition versions of the films, and didn’t release Blu-ray editions until 2010 for the Theatrical edition and 2011 for the Extended edition.