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‘The Hunt for Gollum’ Was Just Announced. It Was on YouTube in 2009.

In 2009, Chris Bouchard, a recent film school graduate, uploaded his 39-minute “Lord of the Rings” fan film, “The Hunt for Gollum,” to YouTube. At the time, the platform was still, in his words, full of “five-minute videos of people’s cats.”

The fledgling site promoted Bouchard’s movie on its homepage, and within 24 hours, he had more than one million views. Today more than 13 million have watched the film, cementing it as a fan favorite.

So it came as a surprise recently when Bouchard received a text from an old friend saying that Warner Bros. had announced a planned addition to its growing “Lord of the Rings” franchise. The name of the movie? “The Hunt for Gollum.”

The studio feature is slated for 2026, and the producers will include Peter Jackson — who directed the 2001-03 trilogy based on the fantasy novels by J.R.R. Tolkien — and his longtime creative partners Philippa Boyens and Fran Walsh. Andy Serkis will direct, and will reprise his role from the earlier movies as the mischievous titular creature.

After getting the text, “at first I thought he was pulling my leg,” Bouchard said of his friend. Soon, online articles were embedding the fan film in their coverage of the Warner Bros. announcement, leading younger fans to it for the first time while older ones relived its lo-fi magic.

But by the next morning, Bouchard’s 15-year-old work had disappeared from YouTube. Viewers clicking on the link were shown a message stating, “This video contains content from Warner Bros. Entertainment, who has blocked it on copyright grounds.”

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