As stars of The Hobbit return to the middle of Middle-earth for the movie's world premiere in Wellington, tired film staff are celebrating it finally being finished.
At least four leading actors arrived in the capital yesterday in preparation for Wednesday's big event, when tens of thousands of people are expected to line the streets for a glimpse of the stars on the red carpet.
Martin Freeman, who plays Bilbo Baggins, Elijah Wood (Frodo), Andy Serkis (Gollum), and Richard Armitage (Thorin Oakenshield) were all spotted at Auckland Airport. They flew on to Wellington yesterday afternoon.
Wood and Serkis both attended the parade through central Wellington in December 2003 for the world premiere of the final Lord of the Rings movie, The Return of the King.
Sir Peter Jackson's spokesman, Matt Dravitzki said the film was finished yesterday, a day after the film maker released a video blog, giving an insight into the post production work.
One advanced screening had already taken place "somewhere on the (Miramar) peninsula".
"There are a lot of very tired and very happy people around," he said.
More than 100 international media were in Wellington for the premiere, Dravitzki said.
Prime Minister John Key said he was excitedly looking forward to the premiere of the movie but admited he has never read the book the movie is based on.
Key said he would be at the premiere, and had already seen about eight to 10 minutes of the movie while on a visit to the Weta premises. It looked "fantastic".
He had not read The Hobbit, the book by JRR Tolkien on which the movies are based, he told RadioLive.
"I got given a copy of it. I've got it on my desk ... Maybe I won't need to read it now. I'll watch the movie, I'll be fine."
He also admitted to seeing only the first of the three movies based on Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, the sequel to the Hobbit story.
"It was good, I enjoyed it," Key said.
"People that are into it are really into it, and they just can't get enough of it.
"It's one of those things where if it's your big thing they just have an insatiable appetite for this stuff," he said.
"In its own world, in its own way, it's a franchise like a James Bond thing. Those people just love it."
He told TVNZ that New Zealand should celebrate the Hobbit film.
"I think it's going to be amazing for New Zealand and for (director) Peter Jackson. You know, as a country we should celebrate the fact, I think, that we've got incredibly talented people."
About 3000 people had worked on the movie, with brilliant post-production work done by Weta.
"Isn't this our time just to stand up for once and say, 'hey we're pretty cool ... we're a neat little country and we've produced these great movies'."
Hobbit fever is already building in Wellington, with the launch of The Hobbit Artisan Market at Waitangi Park on Saturday, along with a big-screen showing the Rings films, and Air New Zealand's unveiling of an official Hobbit aircraft, decked out with a 73-metre-long image of the stars.
About 30 artists are hawking Tolkienesque wares at the market. Stallholder Barry Eldridge said the new films had ramped up interest in the replica "fellowship cloaks" and scarves made from the wool of sheep raised on the family's hill country station in Wairarapa.
His daughter, Kiri, said there had always been demand for the items from passionate fans from across the world. "People ring up and ask for them in Elvish and we have no idea what they're saying."
Steve Wheeler, official knifesmith and cutler of The Hobbit films, has created thousands of knives, swords and daggers, as well as countless table knives, forks and spoons.
He said he was constantly surprised by the film-makers' attention to detail, and the level of intricacy demanded from him.
"There was stuff there I'd look at the job sheet and think, ‘What, you can't be serious' and you rock up and see the boss and he says, ‘Yep, that's what we want'."
The Waitangi Park market, which is free, and family-focused, will run until the end of the movie premiere on Wednesday.
Air New Zealand's Hobbit-themed 777-300 will fly between Auckland, Los Angeles and London.
Earlier in the month, the airline released its in-flight safety video An Unexpected Briefing, created by the Academy Award-winning Weta Workshop and starring cast and crew from The Hobbit. It has had almost 10 million views on YouTube.