Wellingtonian Editorial: Hobbit premiere a grand occasion

Last updated 10:34 29/11/2012

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OPINION: Wellington has been over-run by Hobbits this week.

There's been star-gazing, a Hobbit-themed market at Waitangi Park and all sorts of other Hobbit-associated activities.

It's easy to be cynical about these feel-good occasions, but we shouldn't be. The impact of such public celebrations should not be under-rated.

Events such as the premieres of The Lord of the Rings, The Lovely Bones and now The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey have given Wellington a party atmosphere and created an undeniable buzz around the city.

It was amazing this week to hear about visitors from as far afield as Scandinavia, Britain, the United States and Australia who had travelled to New Zealand just for the premiere.

Hardy New Zealanders of a previous generation used to take blankets and a thermos and sleep outside main sports grounds on mid-winter nights before a rugby test, just to ensure they got tickets.

There was even a bit of that this week with some people opting to spend the night before Wednesday's red carpet premiere sleeping in Courtenay Place to be sure they got good positions to watch the stars walk by.

There may never be another premiere in Wellington - or probably New Zealand - as big as The Lord of the Rings in 2003.

That was a never-to-be- forgotten occasion and ushered in a new era in New Zealand film history.

However, the launch of The Hobbit this week was a tremendous affair.

Tickets for the premiere were in such demand that the B grade celebrities were given tickets to see the movie at Reading Courtenay. Just the creme de la creme got to see it at The Embassy, with its flash new sound system.

In passing, it does reinforce what a massive contribution Sir Peter Jackson has made to Wellington. His rare abilities as a film-maker, and his stubborn insistence on doing things in Miramar rather than in Los Angeles, have had a significant effect on Wellington's economy and public profile.

These big public occasions do cause some disruption to the city.

Restaurants along the red carpet route were forced to remove their footpath tables, though those with first-floor balconies did a roaring trade.

Streets were blocked off and public transport was delayed and/or diverted. Car parks were changed into taxi ranks and bus stops.

In the end, it was a small price to pay for a special day in Wellington's history.

Whether it's the America's Cup parade in 1995, the mini- parade for the World Cup footballers in 2010 or the bigger Rugby World Cup parade last year, Wellingtonians clearly enjoy the opportunity to get out and be part of a happy event.

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In a sense the victory parades and premieres have replaced royal tours of previous eras.

When one of the royals, especially the Queen, was coming to town, there would be eager anticipation for months. People went to great lengths to ensure she saw the best the city had to offer.

The royals don't elicit the same fervour these days. They're more of a curiosity.

However, Wellingtonians clearly still like to get out in big numbers for the grand occasions.

For proof of that, you only had to be somewhere near Courtenay Place on Wednesday.

- The Wellingtonian

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