Dec. 19, 2001 -- -- Hardcore fans slipped into their elfin outfits, bought advanced tickets in record number, and packed into theaters at midnight for the long-awaited opening of Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings.
"It was amazing. I think it was better than Star Wars," said Scott Archer, 24, who came to New York from Cincinnati to see it on opening night with Ian McKellen, who plays wizard Gandalf the Grey.
Archer said he first read the J.R.R. Tolkien literary trilogy when he was 12 years old. "I waited two years for this."
The movie has opened in 10,000 theaters across the country to wickedly good reviews. The Fellowship of the Ring is the first of a trilogy. The other two films, by the way, have already been shot.
"Welcome to the long-expected party," At the New York premiere, McKellen said, addressing the audience before the three-hour movie. "Put down the popcorn, turn down the cell phones and hang on to your bladders."
Hobbits Put Hairy Legs on One at a Time
For the non-initiated, Lord of the Rings takes place long ago in the mythical land of Middle-Earth and features a vast array of hobbits, dwarves, nasty orcs, immortal elves and wise and powerful wizards — none of whom are named Harry Potter.
An evil lord tries to regain his power by getting his hands on a powerful ring, which happens to be in the hands of the peaceful hobbit, Frodo. The ring, it is decided, must be taken to the place it was made and destroyed, whereupon the fellowship of heroes is formed and adventure ensues.
The film stars McKellen, Elijah Wood, Cate Blanchett, Liv Tyler and Christopher Lee and was directed by Peter Jackson.
"Making the three movies at once as opposed to doing them over a longer period of time was critical," said Wood, who plays the hero Frodo. "It's one story and it really does take place over this kind of length of time."
The next installments will come out in 2002 and 2003.
The lavish costuming in the $270 million epic is designed to bring Tolkien's fantasy world to life. Hobbits have large hairy feet, and Wood says he was weighed down by some strange looking prosthetics.
"Believe me, I got tired of those damn things after a while. There great and wonderful and really define hobbits," Wood said. "But it also meant that we'd lose about an hour and a half of sleep on those days."
Some Fans Not Impressed
Advance ticket sellers reported Tuesday that the movie was responsible for roughly 85 percent of their sales this week. "It will certainly be one of the biggest advance ticket sales of the season, probably second to Harry Potter," Russ Leatherman, the founder and voice of Moviefone, told The Associated Press.
By Tuesday, Moviefone had sold more than 100,000 advance tickets to Rings.
But living up to a classic isn't easy. "There wasn't enough action," said Mark Sostre, 21, a college student in New York, who saw one of the first showings. "I was really looking forward to it."
"There are a lot of cheesy parts," said Billie Cohen, a 27-year-old editor.
ABC Radio contributed to this report.