Profiling your inner Hobbit: the ‘most ambitious ever’ film audience survey on Tolkienites

Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies is out in theatres this weekend, with fans around the world having waited ravenously for its arrival. It’s an audience like none other, and researchers the world-over is hoping to gain insight into why these fans love Middle-Earth so much.

Fans hungry for Tolkien’s world have existed since the professor first wrote his series all the way back in 1937. The series, often seen by many in the literary world as the defining work of high-fantasy, has created legions of followers who actively engage in fan websites, meet ups, costume play, and an assortment of other activities.

So it’s apt that around the same time The Battle of the Five Armies, the final entry to Peter Jackson’s vision of the Hobbit, is released, researchers from 46 countries including New Zealand’s Victoria University of Wellington is setting up a survey for the fans of Middle-Earth.

Fans of Tolkien’s world have long been renowned for their fanaticism, with some having crafted a full feature length fan film, to braving very cold snowy conditions to secure tickets to the final film entry into the epic saga.

From fans of the books to the films and everything in-between, Tolkienites (as some prefer to be called) are also representative of a wide range of diversity. That availability of subject population means it is “the most ambitious research project ever undertaken into film audiences”, the researchers claim.

The survey is a collaborative project that hopes to capture response from more than 30 different languages including te reo Māori. Tthe New Zealand researchers – Dr Joost de Burin and Dr Lauren Anderson – are hoping New Zealanders will happily play their part in the global survey to ensure there’s fair representation of fans from home.

“The survey looks at questions such as what audiences particularly enjoyed about the films, what kind of films they think The Hobbit trilogy are and what the influence is of having read the book,” says Dr de Bruin.

“We are also interested in finding out the responses of different groups and communities of people from countries as diverse as the United States, China, South Africa, Japan, Brazil, India, Finland and New Zealand.

“As New Zealand academics, Lauren and I are also interested in finding out how the fact that these films were shot in the landscape of Aotearoa New Zealand contributes to the image that overseas viewers have of this country and whether there are implications for tourism.”

The survey takes approximately 20 minutes to complete, and requires a healthy dose of understanding of the films.

You can take the survey here