Bag End fronts a blockbuster

Last updated 05:00 19/11/2012

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A huge hobbit-themed sculpture took almost 12 hours to be hoisted on top of the Embassy Theatre yesterday.

Massive pieces - including an enormous sculpture of Gandalf the Grey - had to be craned on to the cinema at the end of Courtenay Place, forcing the closure of Majoribanks St from 6am to 9pm.

Production designer Dan Hennah said Gandalf standing at the door of Bag End with the runes that led the dwarves to Bilbo was quite an iconic image. "That was what started the whole journey. There were the trolls - but I mean, a troll's a troll."

Making the model out of plywood and polystyrene over an aluminium truss secured to the wall of the cinema was a monumental task, Hennah said.

The garden around Bag End was made from 600 hula skirts, shipped in from the Philippines and painted green, and "the biggest plastic flowers we could find".

Now that the model was in place, Hennah said it was a matter of counting down to the November 28 premiere.

He said "another visual element" to the existing model would be added on the day of the premiere. Embassy duty manager Charlotte Weston said crowds gathered during the day to watch the action, but apart from that it was business as usual for the cinema.

"Gandalf was taking a while to get hoisted up."

Wellington City Council has put $1.1 million towards activities in the week leading up to the world premiere of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, including outdoor screenings of the Lord of the Rings trilogy and a Hobbit-inspired "artisan festival".

The festival will showcase the talents of 30 artists who contributed to the films, and will run for five days from Saturday in Waitangi Park.

Sir Peter's personal assistant, Matt Dravitzki, said preparations for the premiere were "progressing really well".

Wellington Airport spokesman Greg Thomas said he wouldn't be surprised to see several private jets landing before the premiere.

The airport added another Middle-earth-inspired installation during the weekend by transforming a baggage carousel at the domestic terminal into Bag End.

This follows the installation of a 12-metre sculpture of Gollum, ducking his head beneath the water to catch a fish, in the main terminal building last month.

Weta Workshop staff spent four months on the installation, which is made mostly of polystyrene.

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