Skip to main content

Kiwi: 'Hobbit' better return our investment

By Glen Scanlon, for CNN
November 28, 2012 -- Updated 1802 GMT (0202 HKT)
  • "Middle of Middle Earth" greets arrivals with Gollum, Hobbit-themed flags, Gandalf
  • Kiwi taxpayers are footing a portion of the cost for the films
  • Prime Minister Key says "The Hobbit" costs far less than "Lord of the Rings" trilogy did for country
  • Director Sir Peter Jackson says the films could have been shot in England, Scotland

Wellington, New Zealand (CNN) -- You'd have to have been hiding down a, er, Hobbit hole, to miss the hubbub.

You can fly to New Zealand, where the Hobbit premieres on Wednesday, on a Hobbit-branded plane -- complete with a Hobbit-inspired safety video with Peter Jackson, telling you how to keep safe, if the flight approaches its own Mount Doom.

When you arrive in the self-styled Middle (Wellington, my home town) of Middle Earth, a giant Gollum, reaching for a fish, hangs from the airport terminal's ceiling. On the short ride into the city you'll see the Hobbit-themed flags fluttering in Wellington's persistent wind before a giant Gandalf hovers into view.

He is perched on the Embassy theatre's verandah, standing outside a delightfully rendered Hobbit hole, waiting to welcome the stars and thousands who will watch them parade down the red carpet. Will the movie receive critical acclaim -- or Jar Jar Binks reception?

Read: Hobbit-nobbing with stars

The day has finally arrived. All eyes are on New Zealand's capital, Wellington, as it prepares for the world premiere of Peter Jackson's adaptation of "The Hobbit." The day has finally arrived. All eyes are on New Zealand's capital, Wellington, as it prepares for the world premiere of Peter Jackson's adaptation of "The Hobbit."
Welcome to the Middle of Middle Earth
Welcome to the Middle of Middle Earth Welcome to the Middle of Middle Earth
Tips for New Zealand travel
How movies help boost tourism

Whatever happens, the marketing has been brilliant.

New Zealand's taxpayers have been helping subsidize 14%, or US$82M, of the films (which cost close to NZ$700M, or US$575M).

While the Kiwi psyche adores nothing more than being told how wonderful our little country is, we need more than that as a return on our investment.

Prime Minister John Key, who helped woo the Warner Bros executives when they threatened to film elsewhere, has said it's good value for money because it's far less than the NZ$300m (US$246M) the Lord of the Rings trilogy cost the country.

He argues it is all money well spent on creating jobs and that the cross-promotional benefits will return a treasure to please even Smaug the dragon.

Peter, meanwhile, has popped out of the editing room in the past few days to remind everyone that the subsidies helped ensure that the films were made here. Big studios do not make decisions based on "sentimentality," he said, and there was a real danger of the films being shot in England or Scotland. God forbid.

Stars, fans turn out in droves for 'The Hobbit' premiere

There have been many benefits besides the jobs -- such as celebrity spotting.

Orlando Bloom ate across from us one night -- he was quite underwhelming, short, plain and, worse, minus Miranda Kerr. He really needs that blond hair-do to give him a lift.

We also spotted James Nesbitt (who plays a dwarf) having a nice time with his family at a Mexican joint near Peter's burgeoning studio complex. He even appeared relaxed about sitting by the loo -- quite handy because I kept swinging past to see what they were up to.

Many more Kiwis will be waiting by the red carpet, hoping for their own little bit of movie tinsel.

They deserve to be treated to a show, as they've certainly paid enough of their share of the admission already.

Part of complete coverage on
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 1526 GMT (2326 HKT)
Advocates say the exam includes unnecessarily invasive and irrelevant procedures -- like a so-called "two finger" test.
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 0009 GMT (0809 HKT)
Supplies of food, clothing and fuel are running short in Damascus and people are going hungry as the civil war drags on.
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 1801 GMT (0201 HKT)
Supporters of Richard III want a reconstruction of his head to bring a human aspect to a leader portrayed as a murderous villain.
February 5, 2013 -- Updated 1548 GMT (2348 HKT)
Robert Fowler spent 130 days held hostage by the same al Qaeda group that was behind the Algeria massacre. He shares his experience.
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 0507 GMT (1307 HKT)
As "We are the World" plays, a video shows what looks like a nuclear attack on the U.S. Jim Clancy reports on a bizarre video from North Korea.
The relationship is, once again, cold enough to make Obama's much-trumpeted "reset" in Russian-U.S. relations seem thoroughly off the rails.
Ten years on, what do you think the Iraq war has changed in you, and in your country? Send us your thoughts and experiences.
February 5, 2013 -- Updated 1215 GMT (2015 HKT)
Musician Daniela Mercury has sold more than 12 million albums worldwide over a career span of nearly 30 years.
Photojournalist Alison Wright travelled the world to capture its many faces in her latest book, "Face to Face: Portraits of the Human Spirit."
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 0006 GMT (0806 HKT)
Europol claims 380 soccer matches, including top level ones, were fixed - as the scandal widens, CNN's Dan Rivers looks at how it's done.
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 1237 GMT (2037 HKT)
That galaxy far, far away is apparently bigger than first thought. The "Star Wars" franchise will get two spinoff movies, Disney announced.
July 25, 2014 -- Updated 2327 GMT (0727 HKT)
It's an essential part of any trip, an activity we all take part in. Yet almost none of us are any good at it. Souvenir buying is too often an obligatory slog.