Communities Dominate Brands: New Line Cinema will learn this the hard way ..


As I say on my profile, I have three nationalities – one of which being New Zealander.

So, the news that the Hobbit (prequel to the Lord of the Rings) is not being made by Peter Jackson – does not make me very happy.

This week, at Oxford University in my course about Web 2.0 and User Generated Content , I spoke(among other things) how media companies can ignore the ‘community’ at their peril in a highly interconnected world.

Let’s put the Hobbits episode in perspective:

For years, no one attempted to make the Lord of the Rings because of it’s visual complexity.

In other words, King Kong(also not easy to make) was first made in 1933 then in 1976 and finally in 2005 with Peter Jackson himself.

Inspite of the obvious appeal of the book the only Lord of the Rings version available before 2001, was the 1978 animated version

Thus, when New Line Cinema wanted to make the Lord of the Rings, they had to find the best talent worldwide, considering the complexity of the movie.

That search took them half way round the globe to a (then) relatively obscure director called Peter Jackson based in Wellington (New Zealand)

Now, that the Lord of the Rings is a success by any standards(you can’t argue with three Academy awards!); New Line does not want to use Peter Jackson to create the Hobbit (the prequel to the Lord of the Rings)

This decision is based on an existing commercial dispute. The commercial dispute is understandable – but it seems that the lawyers have won the day.

In my view, The Hobbit (and for that matter other prequels) based on the Lord of the Rings cannot be made without the involvement of Peter Jackson.

For the simple reason that : Communities Dominate Brands (as Tomi Ahonen and Alan Moore would say in their book Communities Dominate Brands – published by futuretext)

Already, more that 300 websites have sprang up to support Peter Jackson and various initiatives are under way on the web

More importantly, the rate at which communities dominate brands has also dramatically increased due to two factors : blogging and mobility

Here are two examples:

Even as early as 2003, movies like the Hulk bombed spectacularly

The rate of decline is particularly memorable because as per this article quoting Nielsen statistics,

Ticket sales tracking firm Nielsen EDI is reporting that this Summer’s major releases have fallen an average of 51 percent between their first week and their second, an increase of 11 percent over five years ago. “The Hulk” this year suffered a 69.7 percent drop, “Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle” fell 62.8 percent, and “Gigli” plummeted by a record 81.9 percent.

This was in 2003.

And what was the reason behind the dramatic fall in the very first week?

Apparently, in many cases in the UK, teenagers were texting from inside the cinema while they were watching the movie that the movie was no good(to put it mildly!)

FIFA learnt the same lesson in 2006. As we say in Mobile Web 2.0 ,

Back in the 2002 World Cup, we were all still debating about the success of 3G and broadband was still not a major factor. Today in 2006, FIFA (the world soccer governing body) has a very different problem on hand. Initially, FIFA stipulated that no pictures of the soccer world cup games should appear on websites until the final whistle and that these pictures should be limited to five per half. Under pressure from the world association of newspapers and the sponsors, FIFA changed its mind.

But, what about the millions of people who could send pictures ‘live’ from the match directly to their own blogs and other sites? After all, it’s very easy to do so using a site like moblog. FIFA cannot control them all – and wisely, they backtracked!

NewLine will learn this lesson the hard way.

It simply cannot ignore the wishes of the community and the fact that the rate at which communities dominate brands (especially through the mechanisms of blogging and mobile) – means that they can never produce the Hobbit (and make it commercially successful) – without Peter Jackson!


  1. Andrew Meadors says:

    I was equally dismayed at the news of Jackson being dismissed from the Hobbit project. This was due to a lawsuit brought by Peter between New Line Cinema over a profit dispute from the LOTR trilogy.
    There is hope however, Producer Saul Zaentz is expecting the rights to the Hobbit story to fall back to him in 07/08 and will tap Jackson for the director role.
    it seems that not only are we voting with our wallets but our blogs as well!

  2. Holly says:

    I agree, who better to do the prequel to lord of the rings as a movie than the one director who had the guts to acheive success on the lord of the rings movies themselves? As for community, i agree with communities dominating brands but only if the community knows what is happening. not many people i australia, especially kids, know that new line has not allowed peter jackson to direct/produce the hobbit. if they knnew im sure that they would rally against it.

  3. Mike Stead says:
    Looks like unless they make it within the next year, the owner of the copyright will give Jackson the go-ahead. And you bet he’s got the money to do it entirely off his own bat this time ;-) . The major distributors will be falling over themselves to partner.

  4. Rick says:

    New Line was very foolish to move in this direction. I daresay they underestimate fan loyalty to Peter Jackson. Let’s hope Peter and Fran get the last laugh on this.

  5. Keith says:

    I hadn’t picked up on the whole Jackson/Newline aggro until I read the BBC item on McKellen and his desire to be Gandalf in The Hobbit.
    Frankly the idea that anyone could do this better than Peter Jackson strikes me as remote and I’d probably be disinclined to view the Hobbit if directed by another.
    I’d like to know more about the dispute. I couldn’t find anything of substance on the net. I’ll guess that Newline stiffed Jackson on the first film. Not entirely unexpected, let’s face it, it was a big risk, and he was an unknown quanitity.