Hobbit home crowd love-in
The curtain has come down the premiere of The Hobbit, after a huge day in Wellington.
Stars signed autographs, fans cheered and Andy Serkis ran along the carpet high-fiving people. Wellington celebrated in style.
Throughout the sweltering day – by Wellington standards that is, with the mercury nudging 22C – the crowd kept growing, eventually getting close to an estimated 100,000, creating a scene reminiscent of the Lord of the Rings: Return of the King premiere in 2003.
''This is echoing in the past for me,'' Elijah Wood, who plays Frodo, said.
Serkis said Wellington felt like home. "It’s fantastic, I don’t really ever feel that I’ve left. I’ve spent seven birthdays here since 1999."
"The Return of the King was fantastic, but this is equally great. That people are willing to turn up and celebrate that these films have been made. They belong to New Zealand, and they belong to Wellington and it’s just great to share it."
But despite the number of spectators, police reported well-behaved crowds - something the film's lead actor Martin Freeman, who plays Bilbo Baggins, commented on.
''For a baying mob, they are very well-behaved.''
A spokesman for Wellington Free Ambulance said it had been a very quiet day. They treated four people for a mild heat exhaustion, but they were back in the crowd after fluids.
With some in the crowd having camped out overnight to nab the best spots, the party atmosphere kicked of long before the A-listers arrived, with the film's trailer and musician Neil Finn helping keep the crowds entertained.
The red carpet walk officially began at 4.30pm, with many of the big names among the first to arrive.
For most it took about two hours to walk the 500m stretch to the Embassy Theatre, as the headline names stopped to talk to fans and sign a multitude of autographs.
The film's director, Sir Peter Jackson, said there was no better place to release the film.
''It's the home crowd isn't it? You can't do better.''
But during speeches before the screening, he admitted he had little choice in where the premiere would be held.
''I do know that if I didn't have a movie here for the premiere, I'd be in awful trouble. I'd be in the poo, as we say.''
Work on the film had gone down to the wire, and he had only seen a full version a few days ago.
''It was OK.''
Jackson said he didn't want to think about the fact that The Hobbit had almost been made in the UK.
"It came very close to it a couple of years ago, but we’re just really lucky that we’re having a supportive country and I think the right decision was made and I am very glad to be here today in Wellington and the home crowd came out to celebrate with us and that is very humbling."
He admitted feeling nervous ahead of tonight's premiere: "Yes, I am feeling nervous, it will be the first time I will be seeing the movie with an audience, I only just finished it, so I am very nervous.
"Once the film is out and a lot of people are seeing it, it becomes almost owned almost by the cinema-goers of the world. At the moment it just has left our hands."
Of the red-carpet reception, Dean O’Gorman - who plays the young dwarf Fili in the film - said "I didn’t know what to expect, how would you prepare for something like this?".
The actor had already seen the movie and said he fell in love with the new 48-frames-per-second 3D. "It was great. Initially it’s different but it’s so clear and you really see everything and it’s amazing."
But, for many in the cast tonight, it would be their first viewing of the film.
''I'm hoping I’m still in this film,'' Barry Humphries said.
Others to grace the red carpet included Cate Blanchett, who turned heads in a dress with a red chiffon top, white midriff and long black skirt.
She said she was excited to see the movie, but sad that Sir Ian McKellen, who played Gandalf, wasn't there for the premiere.
But Sir Ian was there in spirit, sending a video message from London.
''I wish I were there in my spiritual home in Wellington.''
Viewers were in for a treat, he said.
The first screenings started at 7.30pm in both the Reading and Embassy cinemas.
The Dominion Post