September 11, 1998 at 04:00 AM EDT

There may not be many new stories in Hollywood, and it appears that there aren’t many new titles, either. While Twentieth Century Fox’s The Thin Red Line sounds a lot like Errol Morris‘ 1988 documentary The Thin Blue Line, Fox can claim it’s sticking with the name of James Jones‘ 1962 novel, from which the WWII drama is adapted. But why is MGM going forward with At First Sight, the new title for Sight Unseen, the Val KilmerMira Sorvino romance due in November? Won’t audiences confuse it with Out of Sight, Universal’s recent box office dud? MGM says the movies’ release dates are far enough apart that the titling isn’t a concern.

Director Peter Jackson (The Frighteners) has gotten the go-ahead — and $130 million — from New Line to bring J.R.R. Tolkien‘s Lord of the Rings trilogy to the screen. He’ll film live-action adaptations of The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King back to back to back, beginning mid-1999. The enterprise failed to elicit enthusiasm from Miramax, which optioned the books (Harvey and Bob Weinstein will still be credited as executive producers). ”I felt we needed six hours of screen time, which Miramax didn’t agree to,” says Jackson, who plans to cast unknowns as the diminutive hobbits. ”It was mainly a creative thing and not about the budget.” Jackson says that his decision to have the films ready by Christmas 2000, Summer 2001, and Christmas 2001 is not only to keep fans hooked, but also out of concern that ”if one didn’t do well at the box office, the others wouldn’t get made.” And he solicited advice from Frighteners‘ executive producer Robert Zemeckis, who filmed the two sequels to Back to the Future over the course of one year. According to Jackson, Zemeckis told him ”It’s the best way to get me off the couch.”

Following the path greased by Happy Days stars-turned-filmmakers Ron Howard, Anson Williams, and Henry Winkler, Don (formerly Donny) Most, a.k.a. Ralph Malph, has just finished shooting The Last Best Sunday, an indie drama about a teenager who takes a young woman hostage. For his directorial debut, Most, who plays a television executive in Howard’s upcoming EDtv, got some pointers from the head of the Happy class. ”He read the script, and I asked advice,” Most says. ”I wanted to pick his brain, and he was nice enough to accommodate.” Most has already optioned his next film project, Ten Cent Pony, by Sunday screenwriter Karen Kelly.

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