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“The Hobbit” trilogy had already fascinated almost 500,000 Romanian viewers, setting a difficult to break record and turning the second instalment, “The Desolation of Smaug”, into one of the biggest communication challenges: without a red carpet graced by international stars like Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen or Benedict Cumberbatch, how could we engineer a similarly spectacular movie release in Romania?

So we set out to find in Romania landscapes that were out of Tolkien’s world – we went into forests as dark as Mirkwood forest, crossed perilous peaks like the Misty Mountains and valleys as bright and picturesque as those in the Elven Realm, and we explored murky caves. Our supposition that Romanian landscapes are just as spectacular as those in the movie, and that the trilogy could have been filmed in Romania thus proved true.Screenshot 2015-09-06 11.27.37

At the beginning of December we set out along with eight opinion leaders, representing the most important publications in the country, to discover Romania’s mythical places, but not before signing Bilbo’s original contract, printed on parchment and full of clauses that would have discouraged any cautious traveler. Where were we heading? Nobody knew, but the adventurers were able to guess by solving a series of not-so-simple riddles. The hundreds of thousands of fans of Cineforum’s Facebook page joined the game and jumped to help.

Once unlocked, the riddles would show the way to each stop: Tabla Butii, the likely border between Mirkwood Forest and Laketown, Gollum’s foggy wetlands at the Hidden Muddy Volcanoes, then Bilbo’s house, with a pantry as well-stocked as that in the movie.

After a day on snowy mountain roads, fighting harsh winds and a fierce snowstorm, the travelers started the next day to explore the Salt Canyon in Meledic, the most interesting saline karst landscape in Romania and, to everyone’s surprise, the place where Gollum’s lost magic ring was hiding in the marshy caves. After a long journey, full of dangers, the adventurers reached the Living Fire, a place where flames rise from the ground, as if seemingly guarding the secret entry to the Lonely Mountain. What liedScreenshot 2015-09-06 11.27.54 beyond the secret entry they were to find out at the cinema.

This initiative was mentioned in 29 special TV reports (of which 8 minutes in prime time), in daily newspapers and online publications from Romania, and in 242 social media posts.

Total audience: over 4,500,000 impressions on Bilbo’s journey in Romania and a ROI of 1:5.

“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” was the biggest premiere of 2013, with over 100,000 admissions in its first weekend. The “Hobbit in Romania” campaign was nominated by journalists as “the bravest and most creative” campaign of a local film distributor, “unprecedented in Romanian cinema industry”.