In a letter to his son Christopher Tolkien, J. R. R. Tolkien set out his policy regarding film adaptations of his works: "Art or Cash". He sold the film rights for The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings to United Artists in 1969 after being faced with a sudden tax bill. They are currently in the hands of Tolkien Enterprises. The Tolkien Estate retains the film rights to The Silmarillion and other works.
The first adaptation to be shown was The Hobbit in 1977, made by Rankin-Bass studios. This was initially shown on United States television.
The following year (1978), a movie entitled The Lord of the Rings was released, produced and directed by Ralph Bakshi; it was an adaptation of the first half of the story, using rotoscope animation. Although the film was relatively faithful to the story and a commercial success, its critical response (from critics, readers and non-readers alike) was mixed.
In 1980, Rankin-Bass produced a TV special covering roughly the last half of The Lord of the Rings, called The Return of the King. However, this did not follow on directly from the end of the Bakshi film.
Plans for a live-action version of The Lord of the Rings would wait until the late 1990s to be realized. These were directed by Peter Jackson and funded by New Line Cinema with backing from the New Zealand government and banking system.
- The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
- The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)
- The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
The trilogy was a box office and critical success. The three films won seventeen Oscars altogether (at least one in each applicable category for a fictional, English language, live-action feature film, except in the acting categories).
A prequel trilogy is currently in production in New Zealand under the direction of Peter Jackson. The three films are scheduled for release in December 2012, 2013, and Summer 2014.
- The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)
- The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)
- The Hobbit: There and Back Again (2014)
Read more about this topic: Middle-earth, Adaptations
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