OPINION: Such was the interest in the world premiere of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in Wellington that television and radio stations broadcast live from the red carpet, while news websites offered blanket blow-by-blow coverage.
The intense public interest is not surprising given New Zealand's fixation on The Hobbit, the work of Sir Peter Jackson, and the positive exposure they give us.
Ever since The Lord of the Rings trilogy shone the spotlight on our beautiful scenery and talent-laden film industry, there has been a sense of jingoism surrounding the films. Any subsequent attack on them is taken by many New Zealanders as an attack on the country itself.
The worldwide interest in the films cannot be denied. They did draw tourists to our shores, with Statistics New Zealand estimating a boost of $700 million to the tourism industry.
No longer were people just interested in our clean, green scenery and adventure activities, they now wanted to visit the places where the movies were filmed.
New Zealand's tourism bosses are hoping for a repeat after The Hobbit is released worldwide, especially given the strong New Zealand dollar has resulted in less spending by visiting tourists, while a drop in travellers from Europe also had an impact.
It's highly likely The Hobbit will be one of the biggest films of all time, given the massive following of the Rings movies and the book. But there should be some apprehension from taxpayers about the risks associated with basing a country's tourism strategy on a film series that is not guaranteed to be a financial success.
The Government bent over backwards to accommodate the production, changing labour laws to weaken the bargaining ability of actors and crews, dishing out millions for marketing, while already offering tax rebates for overseas film studios.
Like any investment, there is an element of wait and see, and certainly the Government must be confident given Sir Peter's track record. But if by some unmitigated disaster The Hobbit tanks at the box office, then hopefully we'll go back to celebrating the aspects of our country that are truly deserving of global attention.
ONE MORE THING:
It was sad indeed to hear that Lady Kay Higgins, wife of Higgins contracting chairman Sir Patrick, had died after a long battle with cancer.
Sir Patrick has spoken before about Lady Kay being the rock of his family, especially during times when he was off shaping the company into the success story it is today.
Lady Kay was tasked with raising the family and running their household, which was an important role. But her contribution to Manawatu was so much more, and her devotion to charitable and community causes will be remembered long after her death.
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