Hobbit fever's been goblin up money

PICTURE PERFECT: Visitors dropped in at Weta Cave after the premiere of the Hobbit film. Emma Parangi takes her own photo with Gandalf.
PICTURE PERFECT: Visitors dropped in at Weta Cave after the premiere of the Hobbit film. Emma Parangi takes her own photo with Gandalf.

The world premiere of The Hobbit gave a big lift to sellers of Tolkien-related goods, but left cafe and bar owners feeling flat.

An estimated 50,000 to 60,000 people visited the Hobbit-themed outdoor market at Waitangi Park on the day of last Wednesday's premiere, according to the first official numbers published.

Official merchandise was also flying off the shelves at the Weta Cave in Miramar, according to worker Jess Chubb.

Its official T-shirts for the film were "the hot thing", but copies of The Hobbit books also sold well. The T-shirts sell for about NZ$36.

"We had a tremendous amount of people through," Mr Chubb said. "We had record-breaking days out here all through last week and last weekend.

"It has been really hectic. We were getting approximately 800-1000 people a day which is really quite extraordinary. In our peak season last year, when we were really busy, it was only around 600 people a day."

Early numbers from an audience survey of attendance at the Hobbit Artisan Market by Angus & Associates showed about a quarter of Wednesday's visitors were from overseas.

Food stall Crepes A-Go-Go, which Marco Angelino runs with wife Emmanuelle, usually goes through 8 litres of crepe mix at an average busy City Market on Sunday mornings.

At the Hobbit Artisan Market it was making between 30 and 50 litres each day.

"It was a great opportunity for Wellington businesses," Mr Angelino said. "The last few months have been pretty down compared to last year so it was great visibility."

Petone-based Stansborough, which made scarves and cloaks for Gandalf in the film, had to produce more woven items through the night to meet demand, according to director Cheryl Eldridge.

"I couldn't tell you off the top of my head how many scarves we sold but it was a lot, an awful lot. Everybody loved the Gandalf scarves and not just the movie fans, which surprised us. We actually sold quite a few cloaks, too."

Stansborough charges $145 for its Gandalf scarves and $2145 for a cloak.

Alan Blundell, manager of Oriental Parade hotel Ohtel, said it had a lot of Hobbit fans coming to its lobby for coffee. "Being across the road from the Hobbit market, a lot of people came across. It really exceeded our expectations."

However, hospitality operators alongside the path of the red carpet on Courtenay Place had underwhelming trading.

A worker at Hummingbird Cafe, on Courtenay Place, said it was not as busy as expected.

The Tasting Room operations manager Cam Thurlow said its Courtenay Place pub was fairly busy but "nothing to write home about", because of the loss of its outdoor seating under council orders to make room for street festivities.

In less than two months of New Zealand Post selling its official limited edition The Hobbit stamps and coins online, it had sold more in terms of turnover than in a typical year for all online items.

Fairfax Media