When I watched the Lord of the Rings trilogy for the Alphabetical Movie Project, I made the choice to watch the extended editions. I don’t believe they are better than the theatrical editions but one of the most remarkable things about the universe Jackson created is how excited I was by the prospect of seeing more – even if the extra bits didn’t add all that much to the story.
If I’m watching a movie for the first time, I’m pretty much always going to try to see the theatrical cut of the film. If I don’t like that version of the film, why would I want to watch a version that has more stuff I don’t like? If I like the film, I want to establish a baseline and I feel that baseline should be what everyone else has already seen.
Besides, the theatrical cut is almost always better. Most movies don’t need to be longer. Most movies need to be shorter. As much as I love the extra stuff in the LOTR movies, I don’t feel like any of the movies are improved by the additional material. The theatrical versions exhibit better pacing and storytelling than the extended editions. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think that the avalanche of skulls really makes Return of the King better.