Party in wings for Hobbit premiere

KERRY MCBRIDE AND TOM CARDY
Last updated 05:00 06/06/2012
Orlando Bloom
PHIL REID/Fairfax NZ

FLASHBACK: Orlando Bloom shows off his I Love NZ t-shirt at the world premiere of the Return of the King in Wellington, December 1, 2003.

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Wellington will roll out the red carpet once again on November 28, when the world premiere of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is held at The Embassy theatre.

The film is the first of two multimillion-dollar Hollywood blockbusters to be released by Oscar-winning director Sir Peter Jackson, telling the story of hobbit Bilbo Baggins' quest into the heart of a dragon's treasure-laden lair.

Wellington had become home for the films' cast and crew over the past two years, Sir Peter said.

"I know I speak for a company of hobbits, dwarves, elves and orcs when I say that this city holds a special place in all our hearts.

"We cannot think of a more perfect way to send The Hobbit off into the world than to celebrate with a huge party here in Wellington, where the journey began."

A spokesman for the film said it was hoped that the principal cast for the first film would all attend the Wellington premiere, including lead actor Martin Freeman, and Lord of the Rings stars Sir Ian McKellen, Orlando Bloom and Andy Serkis.

Other big names who could also walk the Courtenay Place red carpet include Elijah Wood who has reprised his role as Frodo Baggins, and Cate Blanchett who plays the elf Galadriel.

Principal shooting for both Hobbit movies is expected to wrap up by the end of next month.

Wellington City Council said the event would be on a similar scale to The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King world premiere held in 2003, with a street parade and public entertainment.

The council had set aside $1.15 million in its draft annual plan for the premiere, funded through the Downtown Levy – a targeted commercial rate.

While the plan was yet to be finalised, 87 per cent of respondents in public consultation supported funding the premiere.

Mayor Celia Wade-Brown said The Hobbit was proof that great things could come from boutique-sized cities.

"We're very proud that The Hobbit was made in Wellington and we'll have a celebration to remember."

Prime Minister John Key said there were massive economic benefits from the films being produced here, and the premiere would put New Zealand on the world stage.

No further government funding had been requested for the premiere.

However, Warner Bros struck a deal with the Government in October 2010 to keep the production in New Zealand after actors' union disputes threw the project into uncertainty.

While it was unclear what economic benefits the premiere could have for Wellington, a McDermott Miller report estimated the 2003 Return of the King premiere contributed about $9.5m in new spending to Wellington's economy.

Positively Wellington Tourism chief executive David Perks said thousands of fans were expected to descend on Wellington for the big day, filling the city's hotels and restaurants.

"There is going to be a simply unmissable buzz pulsing through the coolest little capital in the world."

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- The Dominion Post

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