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Movie fans gear up for red carpet

PAUL EASTON
Last updated 05:00 24/11/2012

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Tens of thousands of people are expected to line the streets of Wellington for the world premiere of The Hobbit, but organisers are not predicting the huge throng that greeted The Return of the King nine years ago.

Police are preparing to draft in 25 extra staff to patrol the crowds in and around Courtenay Place, and help control traffic.

The central city liquor ban would stay in place for Wednesday's event, Inspector Simon Perry said. "However, it shouldn't be too much of an issue. It's not really a boozy event at all."

Lost children were expected to be more of a problem, and he urged parents to keep an eye on their little ones.

On December 1, 2003, about 120,000 people turned out to watch a parade of stars from the final Lord of the Rings movie make their way from Lambton Quay to Courtenay Place.

There will be no parade next week, and events will be confined to the area around Courtenay Place, so Wellington City Council is expecting a smaller crowd.

The forecast is good, with sunny skies and a high of 19 degrees Celsius predicted by MetService.

Director Sir Peter Jackson is expected to be first to arrive on the red carpet at 4.30pm, at the corner of Taranaki St and Courtenay Place.

He will be followed by stars including Martin Freeman, who plays Bilbo Baggins, Elijah Wood, Cate Blanchett and Hugo Weaving, who will walk more than 500 metres to the Embassy Theatre.

Roads around Courtenay Place will be closed for a day and a half. Affected roads include Kent Tce, Cambridge Tce and Majoribanks St.

Movie fans have already booked out window tables and balcony seats at restaurants and bars overlooking Courtenay Place to be close to the action.

A grandstand will also be erected, for which tickets will be given away through a series of promotions around the city.

The council will be giving away 120 tickets at the Hobbit Artisan Market, which opens in Waitangi Park today. Thirty artists will be displaying and selling their wares at the five-day market, from glass blowers to leather workers, jewellers and sculptors. Waitangi Park will have big screens with a live feed from the red carpet.

Wellington Restaurant Association president Mike Egan said restaurants were looking forward to the day. "We're not thinking it's going to be a golden ticket, we just hope it's a great event."

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