We looked to its coming at first light on the fifth day. At dawn, we looked to the East—and it was there.
Sorry in advance to those of you that put down the absurd $800 for that super fancy version of all six Lord of the Rings/The Hobbit movies on Blu-ray a few years ago, but get ready to chuck out your replica Red Book of Westmarch for the upgrade we’ve all been waiting for. Warner Bros. has finally officially confirmed that The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies are being mastered for a 4K UHD release later this year.
First revealed in an announcement video by potato artisan Samwise Gamgee himself, aka actor Sean Astin, the release is actually coming in two waves. On December 1, 4K UHD releases of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies as separate collections will drop. Including both the theatrical and extended cuts of each movie (across nine discs for The Lord of the Rings trilogy, six for The Hobbit), these sets will not include the much-adored, almost-as-lengthy special features of past Middle-earth movie releases, instead focusing on new 4K remasters that were, as Astin says, overseen by director Peter Jackson.
According to a Warner Bros. Home Entertainment press release, The Lord of the Rings in particular will be released with a new 4K scan of each film’s original camera negatives, as well as a new 4K scan of the films’ VFX. The Hobbit is likewise getting a similar upgrade based off its original 5K digitally shot footage.
If you’ve got the willpower of a particularly hardy Hobbit and are willing to wait a little while longer, however, there are two more releases coming in 2021. A “Middle-earth Ultimate Collectors’ Edition” set for next summer will bundle the 4K UHD versions of all six movies—both theatrical and extended cuts—in one set, alongside “new bonus content, previously released Blu-ray discs of The Hobbit trilogy, and remastered Blu-ray discs of The Lord of the Rings trilogy,” according to Warner Bros. Aside from new bonus content, the re-release of the Blu-rays for each movie will presumably also include their previously released hours-upon-hours of special features. Meanwhile, if you don’t care for 4K at all, the remastered versions of The Lord of the Rings’ theatrical and extended cuts will be released as standard Blu-rays in late 2021, to celebrate The Fellowship of the Rings’ 20th anniversary.
The Middle-earth movies have long been begging for a UHD release—getting the chance to see all versions of the films not just upscaled, but receiving the love and care they deserve in being transferred to the best at-home viewing experience possible, makes it worth the long and winding road it’s been. That we have to wait a while longer to get the “complete” version next year and rewatch all those incredible special features and whatever new treats WB has planned might be a little frustrating. But if you just want the movies? Having something just in time for Christmas is perfect.
The Lord of the Rings: The Motion Picture Trilogy releases December 1 for $90, or as part of an Amazon-exclusive gift set including new packaging and a replica of the One Ring for $140. The Hobbit trilogy will also be there.
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