$300m Government boost for international and New Zealand movies
More Hollywood blockbusters could be made in New Zealand as the screen sector receives a $300 million boost from the upcoming Budget.
Finance Minister Steven Joyce's first Budget, to be announced on May 25, will allocate $240m over the next four years to help bring international productions to New Zealand.
A further $63.9m is being committed to ensure the domestic component of the New Zealand screen production grant continues.
The Wellington-based Weta Group of Companies welcomed the funding, as did Wellington Mayor Justin Lester.
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"Locally, we need to ensure we have the next generation of talent like Peter Jackson and Richard Taylor are supported," Lester said.
Revenue generated by New Zealand film production doubled in 2016, thanks to a bounce-back by Wellington's movie sector.
Films such as Ghost in the Shell, starring Scarlett Johansson, and the remake of Pete's Dragon helped the screen industry generate revenue of $3.3 billion last year, up 3 per cent on 2015. Of that, film production revenue doubled to more than $1b.
New Zealand Film Commission chief executive Dave Gibson believed the current good health of the industry led to the funding boost, to ensure the momentum was kept up.
"I think the industry is in a good spot and has grown to a good level where I don't think we need to do much more. We're close to the sweet spot," he said.
Since 2014, screen grants have supported about 50 international productions. Industry insiders, many of whom rely on screen grants, say the incentives attract more international movie makers.
The Weta Group, which includes Weta Digital, Weta Workshop, Park Road Post Production and Stone Street Studios, said the increased support would allow New Zealand to compete for more big film and TV project internationally.
Park Road Post Production chief executive and head of Stone Street Studios Cameron Harland said it would help to sustain the recent growth, success and economic contribution of the screen sector, internationally and domestically.
"The film industry is very much a global marketplace now and, while some people don't like the idea of incentives, they are a reality in the screen industry. Without them, it is impossible to compete for work.
"When we can compete on level terms, we are able to attract projects because we have such talented crew, a supportive and connected industry and an amazing environment to live and work in.
"It's why productions such as Pete's Dragon, filmed all round New Zealand, Wrinkle in Time in the South Island, Ghost in the Shell in Wellington, and Meg in Auckland, choose to come and film here."
Gibson said there was an influx of American films being made in New Zealand, but he was seeing the bridge between Kiwis and international films grow closer.
For example, many of those working on Peter Jackson's upcoming movie, Mortal Engines, were New Zealanders.
There were many big movies in the pipeline for New Zealand, including four Avatar sequels, in which Kiwi actor Cliff Curtis had been cast, he said.
Economic Development Minister Simon Bridges said the film funding could have flow-on effects for other industries such as tourism and technology.
"Technologies like artificial intelligence and robotics, originally developed for film, are being used and adapted in other areas such as health, bringing even more economic upsides," he said.
"It also supports tourism, with New Zealand recognised as a leading film tourism destination – 18 per cent of visitors say they chose to come here following the Hobbit trilogy."