Hobbit mania hits Wellington

Peter Jackson on the red carpet. Screenshot Hobbit.com
Hobbit mania gripped the capital city of New Zealand this week for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey world premiere.

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Hobbit mania gripped the capital city of New Zealand on Wednesday for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey world premiere. The week-long celebration of creativity in Wellington, dubbed ‘the Middle of Middle-earth’, started on Saturday with the Hobbit Artisan Market at Waitangi Park.

Amongst the celebrations, critiques of the NZ film industry and politics behind the scenes continued, including the employment law changes, with recent international coverage in The New York Times ‘New Zealand Wants a Hollywood Put on Its Map’.

Meanwhile in Wellington, it was a day for the fans. Tens of thousands of people crowded the streets for the red carpet procession before the premiere at 7pm.

The entertainment began at 3pm on Courtenay Place and at 4pm New Zealand musician Neil Finn performed the song Lonely Mountain, which he wrote for The Hobbit.

Film stars and VIPs started arriving at 4.30pm and walked the 500 metres from the Taranaki Street end of Courtenay Place to the Embassy Theatre. It was followed by speeches from Sir Peter Jackson, NZ Prime Minister John Key and Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown. At 7pm the film screened at the Embassy Theatre and Reading Cinema Complex for invited guests.

Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown started the podium speeches saying the world’s eyes were on New Zealand, with Wellington at its very best, combining talent and technology.

Prime Minister John Key paid tribute to Peter Jackson and all who worked on the movie – from actors to grips. He said the movie industry was very important to NZ, and was a catalyst for other businesses.

On the red carpet, Peter Jackson acknowledged there was a lot of drama at the beginning, but said the biggest challenge was the huge logistics of making the movie over 18 months.

Joining filmmakers Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens at the premiere were Martin Freeman, who plays the central role of the Hobbit Bilbo Baggins; Richard Armitage, who stars as the Dwarf warrior Thorin Oakenshield; Cate Blanchett and Hugo Weaving, who reprise their roles from The Lord of the Rings Trilogy as the Elf Queen Galadriel and Elf Lord Elrond; with Andy Serkis also returning to the role of Gollum, and Elijah Wood as the Hobbit Frodo Baggins.

Sir Ian McKellen, who reprises his role as Wizard Gandalf the Grey, was unable to attend the premiere but said in a video address that Wellington was his 'spiritual home' with 'one of the most talented groups of actors and technicians who ever gathered together to make a movie.'

His Gandalf the Grey-inspired installation, created by the film's production designer Dan Hennah, was present on the front of the Embassy Theatre.

Also attending the premiere was the cast playing the Company of Dwarves, including Jed Brophy, Adam Brown, John Callen, Mark Hadlow, Peter Hambleton, William Kircher, Graham McTavish, James Nesbitt, Dean O’Gorman and Aidan Turner; Barry Humphries, who plays the Goblin King; and Sylvester McCoy, who appears as the new Wizard Radagast the Brown.

A budget of $1.15 million was included in the Long Term Plan to enable the Wellington City Council to support the premiere of The Hobbit, funded from the Downtown Levy (a targeted rate paid by commercial ratepayers in central Wellington). The Council says that in the Long Term Plan, adopted on 27 June 2012, the premiere received the most support out of all the 'Growing Our Economy and Jobs' proposals, with 87% wanting it to remain in the plan.

There was a live feed of the premiere celebrations on a large screen in Waitangi Park, at the Hobbit Artisan Market. From glass blowers to leather workers, jewellers to sculptors, the five-day market showcased the artists and craftspeople in Wellington.

At least 5000 people were estimated to have attended on Saturday, and Sunday's crowd doubled that with 10,000 strolling through. Stalls will continue to run from 12 noon to 6pm through Wednesday.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey will be released in New Zealand on December 12.

The screenplay is by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson and Guillermo del Toro. Jackson is also producing the film, together with Carolynne Cunningham, Zane Weiner and Fran Walsh. The executive producers are Alan Horn, Toby Emmerich, Ken Kamins and Carolyn Blackwood, with Boyens and Eileen Moran serving as co-producers.

Under Jackson’s direction, The Hobbit Trilogy has been shot in 3D 48 frames-per-second and will be released in High Frame Rate 3D (HFR 3D), other 3D formats, IMAX and 2D. Production took place at Jackson’s own facilities in Miramar, Wellington, and on location around New Zealand.

Film New Zealand is saluting the work of hundreds of non-screen contributors to the project with a series of nationwide advertisements thanking the unsung heroes of the New Zealand screen industry.

Film NZ CEO Gisella Carr said the sheer magnitude of the impact a production has on a country like New Zealand is illustrated by recently released statistics. These showed that due to the filming of The Hobbit:

  • 99 sets were built
  • 6750 domestic flights were taken
  • 19 commercial properties were leased long term
  • 93,000 hotel bed nights were sold
  • 1800 rental cars were hired
  • 1650 work vehicles were used
  • $380,000 was spent on coffee
  • $9,180,000 was spent on set construction materials (with local suppliers)
  • approximately 16,000 days were worked by New Zealand actors
  • $1,450,000 was spent with local food suppliers

Written by

The Big Idea Editor

28 Nov 2012

The Big Idea Editor Cathy Aronson is a journalist, photo journalist and digital editor.

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