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A film version of The Hobbit is coming to a theater near you… although probably not until 2011. But those who can’t stand the three-year wait can take some comfort in, which is working hard to keep fans abreast of the movie’s progress. The goal of the site, founded in 1999, is to “provide an outlet for all Tolkien fans to express their enthusiasm for the world of J.R.R. Tolkien, from hardcore book fans to people who only enjoy Orlando Bloom’s portrayal of Legolas,” says Chris Pirrotta, one of the site’s founders and the creative director.

Launched by Michael Regina, William Thomas, Erica Challis and Pirrotta in anticipation of The Lord of the Rings films (The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and The Return of the King),
the site’s traffic reached a peak in early 2003, putting the site among
the top 1,000 in the world. However, there was a natural lull in
interest after the last movie was released. Credit The Hobbit
film with increasing traffic, first in 2006 after rumors of the movie
began circulating and then again after its official announcement. The
amount of original content on the site is also on the rise, due to The Hobbit.
“I would say we are about 60/40, 40 being original content. As the
movies start to kick up again, I would expect to see that ratio, at the
very least, flip,” notes Pirrotta, predicting that reporting from
“spies” in the field during filming of The Hobbit will make its way to the site, as it did during filming of The Lord of the Rings.

Tolkien-related news, however esoteric, is the lifeblood of the
site. “We will report anything related to the Tolkien universe to
accommodate any fan, so we can have obscure headlines about Viggo
Mortensen all the way to reporting on when pieces of an old Tolkien
homestead are being auctioned off,” Pirrotta says. “We have a great
relationship with many of the people involved in the Tolkien world, so
we also happen to get news and information to the community first.”
Indeed, director and producer Peter Jackson is unusually close to the
fan site, even going so far as to attend’s Oscar party
first to address the fans after The Return of the King took home 11 Academy Awards.

Pirrotta’s introduction to the Tolkien universe was the animated version of The Lord of the Rings (1977). After that, he discovered the books, re-reading them every year. His favorite of Jackson’s film versions is The Fellowship of the Ring.
“It was pretty uncanny to have someone take the imagery from my
imagination and realize them onscreen in such an accurate and authentic
way,” he says. As for The Hobbit, he’s excited that Guillermo
del Toro will be the director, “as he brings such a unique vision,
style and intelligence to the films.” He thinks Tolkien’s work has such
enduring appeal because he had an “expert ability to capture basic
human themes and movies. Unlike a lot of fantasy, Tolkien’s work was
based in a world that seems real because he used classic myth and
legend to compose the story. There are many Tolkien fans who don’t
consider themselves fans of fantasy because they see the world he
created as something that could have easily existed.”

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