LOS ANGELES – The march to Middle-Earth will be shorter this time for the home-video release of the final chapter in "The Lord of the Rings."
"The Return of the King" comes to DVD and VHS May 25, New Line Cinema announced Monday. That's about three months quicker than parts one and two of the fantasy trilogy, both of which hit video in late summer.
The announcement comes a week after "The Return of the King" bulldozed its way through the Academy Awards (search), earning a record-tying 11 Oscars, including best picture and director for Peter Jackson (search), and sweeping every category in which it was nominated.
The awards bring added prestige, but for a franchise whose theatrical receipts are pushing $3 billion, the Oscar attention was scarcely needed to boost sales.
"That is significant and valuable and adds to the imprimatur and pedigree of the trilogy, but the films have already achieved such high levels of acknowledgment and acceptance," said Stephen Einhorn, president of New Line Home Entertainment. "I do not think it materially affects the demand for the films."
New Line had held off until August for home-video releases of "The Fellowship of the Ring" and "The Two Towers" the last two years to feed into anticipation for the theatrical release of the next film in J.R.R. Tolkien's (search) epic.
With the trilogy concluded, New Line decided to roll the conclusion out earlier on home video.
That's good news for fans anxious to finally stage marathon viewings at home of all three films in Jackson's monumental adaptation of Tolkien's tale, which follows the quest of a band of hobbits, humans, elves and other mythical allies to destroy a ring of ultimate evil and defeat a wicked tyrant.
New Line also plans an extended version of "The Return of the King" on home video around the holidays, similar to the longer cuts of the first two films. The three extended versions will push the saga's running time to more than 11 hours.
The initial DVD release of "The Return of the King" will include the 3-hour, 20-minute theatrical version, plus a range of behind-the-scenes material and trailers and TV spots for the trilogy.