A sign of success for Wellywood hills

BY DAVE BURGESS
Last updated 17:54 09/03/2010
Wellywood

ARTIST'S IMPRESSION: Wellington Airport, which is off to the right, will construct a Hollywood-style sign above Miramar Wharf to celebrate the heart of New Zealand's film industry.

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A massive Wellywood sign celebrating Wellington's success in the film industry will greet tourists as they fly into the capital.

But not everyone agrees on the sign, which will sit on a cutting above Miramar wharf in the seaside eastern suburbs.

Only 44 percent of nearly 9000 respondents to a Stuff online survey were positive about the idea.

Two Facebook pages opposing the sign have been set up, the "A WELLYWOOD sign on the Miramar Cutting hill is a STUPID idea" page has 118 fans, while the "Hey, let's NOT have a "WELLYWOOD" sign in Wellington" group has 447 members.

The sign, which will mimic the famous Hollywood sign in Los Angeles, will be 28m long and 3.5m tall. This pales in comparison to the size of the Los Angeles sign, the letters of which are 14m high and 10m wide.

Wellington Airport will pay for the construction of the sign on the Miramar site which it owns.

The project has already received resource consent and final installation is expected to happen in June.

Wellington Airport chief executive Steve Fitzgerald said the link between the airport and the film industry had grown during the past 17 years.

"The sign will help cement Wellywood's place as an international tourism landmark." He would not say how much the sign will cost.

Sir Peter Jackson said that despite the gloomy economy it was good to see there was still room for some "cheeky fun".

"It's Kiwi tongue-in-cheek humour at its very best, but beneath the leg-pulling is genuine pride.

"Several of the most popular films ever made were born in Miramar. Within a mile of the sign is the birth place of Middle-earth and Pandora."

Wellington City Council owns 34 per cent of the airport.

Wellington Mayor Kerry Prendergast said the giant sign would capture the essence of the capital.

"The sign will be one of the first things people will see when they arrive in Wellington. They will be left in no doubt that this is the heart and soul of New Zealand's film industry."

Tours of film-related facilities in Miramar are emerging as one of the city's prime tourist attractions, with about 100,000 people last year visiting the Weta Cave – Weta's mini-museum, theatrette and shop.

The film industry pumps an estimated $285 million a year into Wellington.

Positively Wellington Tourism chief executive David Perks said the city benefited through the international exposure that films generated and the visitors they attracted.

"Stars like Elijah Wood tell the world they love this place. You can't buy that kind of endorsement."

Hataitai resident Phil Greig, a lab technician on Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy, is not a fan of the Wellywood sign, despite buying himself a personalised number plate – "philmn" – which also has Wellywood written across it.

"Wellywood is a positive thing for Wellington, without a doubt, but there is a bit of conflict there in making a serious industry in Wellington too gimmicky."

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Mainzeal and Beca will construct the sign off-site and installation is scheduled for June.

- with NZPA

- © Fairfax NZ News

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