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'RINGS' VS. RAIN FRODO FANS RALLY FOR MOVIE TRAILER.

Byline: Jennifer Hamm Staff Writer

BURBANK - After driving 215 miles from the Yosemite Valley, David Schulze stood 12 hours in the pouring rain outside the AMC Theaters before rushing inside Friday to grab a prime seat - not for the premiere of a star-studded epic movie, but the one-minute, 46-second preview for one.

He and about 20 other hard-core fans of J.R.R. Tolkien's ``Lord of the Rings'' withstood rain and bone-chilling cold in order to see the trailer for the movie version of the classic fantasy trilogy, scheduled for release Dec. 19.

``Waiting overnight was nothing,'' said Schulze, a 45-year-old construction worker who first entered Tolkien's world of hobbits and wizards as a teen-ager. ``I've been waiting since 1973.''

Schulze and the other fans gathered in front of the AMC theaters on Palm Avenue well before midnight Thursday. They erected a makeshift tent to keep dry, then roasted marshmallows and posted live updates of their escapade on the Internet.

``The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring,'' to be released by New Line Cinema, stars Elijah Wood, Cate Blanchett, Ian McKellen, Ian Holm and Liv Tyler. And although its premier is nearly a year away, fans of the Tolkien trilogy already are in a frenzy over the first installment.

New Line reported 10 million hits on the official site - www.lordoftherings.net - within the first 10 hours of its Friday launch. There are some 400 other Web sites, most run by fan groups, and New Line executives have worked closely with some of them, providing regular production updates.

When a trailer for the trilogy was released on the Internet last year, there were 1.7 million downloads in the first day, New Line executives say. That beat the 1.1 million downloads for the most recent ``Star Wars'' movie trailer.

Seeing the trailer for ``The Fellowship of the Ring'' on the big screen was worth the overnight wait for Jon Cline, a 23-year-old Pasadena resident, who worked closely with New Line to coordinate the event. The trailer ran twice on Friday - once before the screening of ``Thirteen Days,'' and once after.

``You pick up stuff the second time,'' said Cline, who runs the newly established Tolkien Guild Web site. ``It was a good trailer. It had a lot of depth to it.''

Cline and others conceded Friday that they were expecting a far bigger turnout for the trailer's debut but attributed the low numbers to the bad weather. The small turnout is not reflective of the Tolkien loyalists.

``Tolkien's work has such a deep history,'' Cline said. ``Because of that, the fan base is very rich and established.''

In print, ``The Lord of the Rings'' is a 1,200-page trilogy that was written over 14 years and enjoyed rave reviews when the works were first published in the mid-1950s. The books quickly gained and have maintained a cult status, especially among college students.

The fantasy world created by Tolkien is what attracted Markus Watson to the ``Lord of the Rings'' trilogy. But it was the chance to spend time with other Tolkien fans that compelled him to spend the night outside as temperatures dipped into the 40s.

``Being the first in line wasn't really the point,'' said Watson, 28, of Arcadia. ``The point was getting together with people who are just as excited as you are.''

Watson has plenty of experience waiting on line for movies. He camped out in front of Mann's Chinese Theater for a whole month before ``Episode 1'' of the ``Star Wars'' series was released.

Watson said this time around he won't wait as long. For ``The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring,'' he's willing to camp out for only three weeks.

CAPTION(S):

2 photos

Photo:

(1) Jon Cline, left, Jonathan Watson and Joram Manka talk Tolkein while waiting outside the AMC 14 cinema in Burbank for Friday's 12:30 screening of ``The Fellowship of the Ring'' trailer.

Charlotte Schmid-Maybach/Staff Photographer

(2) This scene from ``The Lord of the Rings'' trilogy illustrates the epic sweep attracting fans months before its first release.
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Copyright 2001, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 13, 2001
Words:684
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