New Zealand secures Hobbits and Middle-earth
28 Oct 2010
The Hobbit will stay home in Middle-earth after a deal that confirms Sir Peter Jackson’s much-awaited prequel to 'The Lord of the Rings' is to be filmed in New Zealand.
Two days of negotiations between the NZ government and Warner Bros executives have confirmed New Zealand as the location for filming the two-part Hobbit films - the biggest movie franchise in the world, ever.
NZ Prime Minister John Key says the deal will benefit the country’s film industry and tourism, and keeps New Zealand on the stage as "a great place to make movies".
The agreement requires a change to labour laws regarding contract film workers and will cost more, but Mr Key said New Zealand could not afford to lose the shoot.
New Zealand’s alpine peaks, rain forests and wilderness provided the dramatic backdrop of Jackson’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ film trilogy and losing the two-part prequel would have been a blow for the economy, Key said.
Keeping the NZ$670 million project in New Zealand will create thousands of jobs as well as tourism opportunities and international exposure.
New Zealand has also secured the world première for one of the movies, and Sir Peter Jackson will work on material promoting NZ as a tourism destination. The material will be included in DVDs and digital products for The Hobbit, which is expected to reach an international audience of tens of millions.
The total cost to the New Zealand government, including tax rebates and the marketing credit, is estimated at nearly NZ$100 million, but Mr Key said it made financial sense because of the marketing opportunities for New Zealand tourism.
Great news for NZ
Filming of The Hobbit in New Zealand was great news for New Zealand and New Zealand’s tourism industry, according to Tourism New Zealand's public affairs manager Suzanne Carter.
Like ‘Lord of the Rings’, The Hobbit provided another great opportunity to promote New Zealand to the world in a unique way and to raise awareness of New Zealand as a visitor destination, she said.
"From a tourism perspective the flow-on effects of these films reach communities across the country with visitors coming to enjoy our unique scenery and lifestyle and using our tourism services as they travel.
"People are still travelling to New Zealand today because of the exposure gained through the ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy and The Hobbit will provide another much-needed boost to our billion dollar tourism industry," Carter said.
A number of specific ‘Lord of the Rings’ tours continue to attract scores of tourists to New Zealand - offering fans the chance to travel down Hobbit paths, hand-make their own 'One Ring', and handle replica swords, flags and helmets.
Though work was already underway, a spokesman for Sir Peter Jackson said the events of recent weeks had put pre-production for The Hobbit behind by five weeks.
The movie was given the green light by Hollywood earlier this month.
Sir Peter Jackson will direct the two-part movie story which will be shot in 3D. Filming is scheduled to start in February 2011, with the installments expected to hit cinemas in December 2012 and 2013.
Mark Hadlow and Peter Hambleton, New Zealand actors who have been cast as dwarves in The Hobbit, were "delighted" to hear the movie would be shot in New Zealand.
"The most important thing to come out of it is that these two films are now going to be shot in New Zealand. That will have a positive impact," said Hadlow.
Hambleton said it was a "massive" thing for the country.
"It's great for New Zealand, let's look forward to making great movies and get on with it," Hambleton said.
Weta Workshop co-founder Sir Richard Taylor said the news The Hobbit would be filmed here marked a "wonderful day for the New Zealand film industry".
"To the Hon John Key, Warners, Peter [Jackson], Fran [Walsh] and Philippa [Boyens] - thank you!"
Jackson has co-written The Hobbit screenplays with his partner Fran Walsh, New Zealander Phillipa Boyens, and Mexican director Guillermo del Toro, who was originally set to direct the movies.
The films will be produced by Jackson, Fran Walsh and Carolynne Cunningham with Boyens as co-producer, and Ken Kamins as executive producer.
The Hobbit is being co-produced by New Line Cinema and MGM, with New Line managing production, Warner Bros Pictures handling domestic distribution and MGM distributing internationally.
Background: Hobbiton - Matamata, New Zealand
Meanwhile, according to the Waikato Times newspaper, locals in the little Waikato town of Matamata are celebrating the news that they’re still the centre of 'the shire'.
Matamata Piako Mayor Hugh Vercoe said the announcement was ''wonderful news'' for the town that hosted the Hobbiton film set for the ‘Lord of the Rings’ movies.
Already top of the itinerary for LOTR fans, the Hobbiton film set - with its 37 Hobbit homes and rolling green pastures - has been undergoing extensive development in preparation for location work on The Hobbit.
The working sheep and beef farm, which was discovered by Sir Peter Jackson’s film location scouts in 1998, was the scene of three months filming for the ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy.
Some Hobbit holes and structures were preserved after production was completed, and the movie set has since become a thriving tourist attraction that attracts more than 20,000 visitors annually.
Hobbiton Movie Set and Farm Tours managing director Russell Alexander says it’s business as usual at the farm.
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