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Saturday, June 22, 2024

Put ‘Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power’ in Theaters, Dammit

The Monitor is a weekly column devoted to everything happening in the WIRED world of culture, from movies to memes, TV to Twitter.

Earlier this week, cinephiles got a treat: The writer behind Nicole Kidman’s now-legendary AMC ad, which has been playing ahead of screenings at the theater chain for months, revealed that it’s getting a sequel. As word of the follow-up spread, there was no indication whether it would have a line as iconic as “somehow, heartbreak feels good in a place like this,” but Billy Ray, who penned it, said the next installment was “already written.” For those who have come to anticipate the clip before their films, news of its sequel was an impetus to return to the multiplex once more.

There have, of course, been a lot of recent efforts to get people back in theaters. Moviegoing has taken a huge hit during the Covid-19 pandemic, and while blockbusters like Spider-Man: No Way Home and Top Gun: Maverick have proven there is still an appetite for big-screen experiences, the future of movie theaters is the subject of much hand-wringing. In fact, this Saturday, several movie chains—including AMC—are offering $3 tickets to celebrate National Cinema Day. The move, according to Cinema Foundation president Jackie Brenneman, is to provide a “thank you” to film-lovers who came back to theaters this summer and “an extra enticement for those who haven’t made it back yet.”

This will no doubt bring a few folks out to the movies. But, if I may, I have another suggestion: Put The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power in theaters.

I know, I know. This is very unlikely. Aside from its Oscar contenders, Amazon, which is releasing The Rings of Power on Prime Video this week, doesn’t generally send its content to theaters. Also, Rings of Power is a TV show, not a movie, so its format isn’t exactly conducive to the cinema experience.

However, if there’s one thing that’s become obvious from the early episodes of Rings of Power, and their critical reception, it’s that they are gorgeous and sweeping in scale, the kind of thing one would want to see on the biggest screen possible, like Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films. The Rings of Power is the most expensive series in TV history—a passion project of Tolkien-head Jeff Bezos. And, as Kathryn VanArendonk noted in her review for New York Magazine, it was made to be watched in theaters. “Funneling this many resources into visual effects is appreciated, certainly,” she wrote, “yet it seems like a bit of a shame for a series that many viewers will watch on palm-size screens.”

Amazon seems aware of this. Although the moment has come and gone, the company did hold a small series of launch events in cities across the globe, giving fans the opportunity to see the first two episodes of Rings in theaters. Understandably, Amazon spent millions of dollars on the show as a way to get people to subscribe to Prime, not get their butts into cinema seats. And yet, a theatrical run could drum up interest for the show and potentially get more people in theaters.

This feels like a pipe dream at best. But after streaming services gave folks access to movies and TV shows during Covid lockdowns, there hasn’t been a course correction. Perhaps giving people a reason to hit the box office to see one of the biggest TV shows of the year—if not the biggest TV show of the year—is just the thing. If not, maybe someone could convince Warner Bros. Discovery to do it with House of the Dragon? The company could use some goodwill.

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