104 Marketing the Movies*

  • Marketing the Movies Timeline
  • Key Resources on Franchise-Building and Marketing

This page serves as an overview and index for both the behind-the-scenes and in-the-spotlight processes designed to market the LOTR movie trilogy. It includes licensing film tie-in products and producing press materials, setting up press junkets and creating memorable premieres, advertising for film awards and promoting a global phenomenon.

This Marketing the Movies page is set up in a linear timeline format, although, in reality, marketing such a complex product as a three-year release schedule is much more of a layered system of activities. So, even though these “stages” may seem like separate entities, there are significant overlaps in the processes of planning and implementation. Using a systems approach may be part of what allowed consistency in “corporate design” for such an undertaking.

I’ll be starting off with just an outline that serves as a framework. Then, as I have time, I’ll plan to add overviews and cross-references to relevant products and sources on these topics. When I’ve updated it in a major way, I’ll post that in the What’s New and What’s Next? category.


Preliminary Work

Contract Stage

  • Securing Film Rights/Miramax
  • Promotion Reel
  • Securing New Line Studio Backing


  • Partnership Promotions (products, events, contests, awards and rewards)
  • Promotion for Licensing of Tie-in Products
  • Digital Press Kits (for the release of movies in theatres)
  • Press Junkets
  • Film Trailers (teasers, final theatrical trailer, supertrailers)
  • Print Promos (postcards, advertisements, other print media)

Film Marketing Cycles

Premieres and Special Events

  • Worldwide Premiere Showing and Red-Carpet Event
  • Other Special Events

General Release in Theatres

  • Worldwide Schedules for Individual Film Releases
  • Midnight Showings
  • “Trilogy Tuesday”

Post-Release and Awards Season

  • Theatre Release Statistics (number of countries in release, number of tickets sold, gross revenues)
  • Award Nominations
  • Awards Received

DVD/VHS Releases

  • Marketing/Promotion for Retailers – Paper Press Kits, Press Releases, Digital Asset Kits, Brochures, Booklets
  • DVD/VHS Releases – Theatrical Edition, Special Extended Version, Collector’s Gift Sets, Trilogy Slipcase Sets

Post-Trilogy and Ongoing Promotion

  • DVD Release – Limited Edition
  • DVD Release – Blu-ray Editions (Theatrical and Extended Editions in individual film or Trilogy versions
  • Additional Promotions
  • Preparations for the Sequel Prequel Trilogy of The Hobbit


Wherever possible, I will refer to chapters and sections in the following books that address many of the interwoven processes involved in making and marketing the LOTR trilogy:

The Frodo Franchise: The Lord of the Rings and Modern Hollywood by Kristin Thompson (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2007, ISBN 978-0-520-24774-1). A wonderful narrative of how The Lord of the Rings film trilogy came into being, based on interviews with many of the principal cast and crew. Includes sections on the film, building the franchise, beyond the movie (licensing products; interactive Middle-earth), and the lasting power of the Rings. There are sections that address issues of marketing/promotion. When I index that book, I’ll list the most relevant of what I find.

Studying the Event Film: The Lord of the Rings, edited by Harriet Margolis, Sean Cubitt, Barry King, and Thierry Jutel (Manchester, England: Manchester University Press, 2007, ISBN 978-07190-7198-0). A set of academic essays using The Lord of the Rings trilogy to illustrate how a film can now become a global phenomenon through careful planning, marketing, licensing, and promotion … in ways that intersect with fan (and potential fan) interests. This one-of-a-kind resource includes a timeline, filmography, references, index, and 7 sections totaling 28 essays on:

  • How to study the trilogy and its audiences
  • Multiple DVD releases.
  • How technology changes have enhanced possibilities for producing LOTR.
  • Marketing strategies.
  • International reception of the films.
  • Cross-cultural and cross-generational audiences.
  • Economics of creating intellectual property and licensed products.
  • Filmmaking as a “creative industry,” digital actors.
  • Stars and celebrities.
  • Production and post-production.
  • Soundscapes.
  • Epic/operatic music.
  • Film technology.
  • Script adaptation.
  • Religious themes.
  • History and fantasy.
  • New Zealand and national identity.
  • Tourism in “Middle-earth.”
  • Production infrastructures and corporations.
  • Integration of game and film industries.
  • Credits.
  • Awards.
  • Critics and reviews.

The essays most relevant to marketing the DVD releases are: Multiple DVD releases; Marketing strategies.

A similar marketing and media case-study analysis of a film with massive impact is found in Harry Potter: The Story of a Global Business Phenomenon by Susan Gunelius (New York: Palgrave Macmillon, 2008, ISBN 978-0-230-20323-5). Gunelius gives a fascinating look at Harry Potter a story-based product with similar impact as LOTR films but with a far more guarded approach to product licensing.

Basically, by making the release of Harry Potter novels a 10-year world-wide mystery-solving endeavor, J.K. Rowling used mystery and imagination along with intellect and curiosity to capture the attention of MILLIONS of readers in over 60 languages – which is relatively equivalent to the immense publication statistics for Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. This book also talks about keeping the “brand” pure – like not allowing HP products EVER in a McDonald’s Happy Meal – and the careful translation of the story and characters from the print medium to other media and products. It also contains a number of “mini-case studies” on other print and media franchises, some which soared and most which bombed. The ones which faltered or failed also are instructive for issues of brand dilution and lack of careful translation across media formats. (See pages 129-132 for Gunelius’ deeper look at The Lord of the Rings books and film trilogy.) Chapter titles:

  • Introduction: The Making of a Global Literary Phenomenon
  1. The Book that Lived
  2. The Value of a Good Product: Setting the Stage for marketing and Promotion
  3. The Buzz Begins
  4. Harry Potter as a Powerful Product and Brand: An Education in Marketing and Promotion
  5. Harry Potter’s Influence on Print Publishing
  6. Harry Potter’s Influence on Movies and Television
  7. Harry Potter’s Influence on Retail
  8. Harry Potter’s Influence on Merchandising
  9. Harry Potter’s Influence Online
  10. Harry Potter Becomes a Theme Park
  11. Harry Potter’s Global Business and Personal Impact
  12. Predecessors to Harry Potter’s Success: Who Else has Gotten it Right or Wrong?
  13. What is Next for Harry Potter and the World Affected by the Boy Who Lived?
  14. Conclusion: Recreating a Literary Phenomenon