27 Jul 2013

Hobbit filming wraps up for final time

5:55 am on 27 July 2013

Filming of the third instalment of the Hobbit trilogy finishes in Wellington on Friday, ending an epic 14 years of Tolkien movie-making for Sir Peter Jackson.

Post-production work on the final part of the prequel to the Lord of The Rings movies will continue into 2014, but tourism organisations say the effect of the films will continue for much longer.

The Institute of Economic Research has estimated that the production company behind the the first trilogy, The Lord of the Rings, spent $350 million in New Zealand.

A Wellington City Council report estimates that last year's world premiere in the capital of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey contributed $11.7 million to the city's economy.

The author of three Lord of the Rings location guides, Ian Brodie, says the films' ability to bring tourists to New Zealand cannot be underestimated. Tourism New Zealand says for the first three months of this year almost one in 10 visitors to New Zealand reported The Hobbit was a significant factor for their visit.

Weta Digital worker Lucas Putnam came from his native California to work on the first Lord of The Rings film 12 years ago and never left. "To see the film industry in Wellington, based obviously in Miramar, to see it grow so big and the visual effects company that we work for, to see that grow to be one of the best in the world, that was pretty exciting to be a part of."

Hobbit location manager Jared Connon believes New Zealand's identity as Middle Earth is now a stronger international brand than the All Blacks.

As well as the Tolkien trilogies, other blockbuster films such as Avatar have been partly made in Wellington. The chief executive of Absolutely Positively Wellington, David Perks, says the trilogies have put the capital on the map for film-makers and kick-started the city's now burgeoning film industry.

The filming of The Hobbit also created controversy when the Government struck a deal with Warner Brothers in 2010 to keep the movies in New Zealand.

The Government changed the law under urgency to clarify the status of an independent contractor on a film production and increased tax rebates for the film company by millions of dollars.

Looking back, Actors Equity organiser Phil Darkins, says the so-called Hobbit dispute has been a watershed for the industry, raising awareness of the political nature of the union's work.

So far the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films have won 11 Oscars.