Prime Minister John Key says his trip to Hollywood today is an important part of selling New Zealand as a tourism destination because in some countries they know the Lord of the Rings but have never heard of the All Blacks.
Key leaves this evening for Los Angeles where he will attend a private dinner party for film studio bosses hosted by director James Cameron. He will also visit Walt Disney, Sony Pictures and Warner Bros, and meet senior representatives from 20th Century Fox, Paramount Pictures, Universal Pictures and the Motion Picture Association of America.
Speaking yesterday to the Tourism Industry Association in his capacity as Tourism Minister, Key said surveys of tourism markets found making movies were important way of attracting visitors to New Zealand.
"The understanding of the Lord of the Rings being made in New Zealand and the desire of people to come to New Zealand on the back of that is way more powerful than the All Blacks.
"They don't know the All Blacks half of these markets. Many in the West Coast of America, they don't know the All Blacks, they don't play rugby, that is not their market. Same thing in Japan."
About 50 million DVDs of the Lord of the Rings had been sold in Japan alone, Key said.
The Government last year changed labour laws by redefining what a film contract worker was to ensure the Hobbit movies were made here. As part of the deal with Warner Brothers, there will be a 12 minute promotional clip about New Zealand at the end of the Hobbit DVDs.
"We can use those as hugely powerful ways to go," he said.
New Zealand already offers overseas filmmakers a 15 per cent rebate for productions worth more than $15 million.
Key said earlier this week the Government was unlikely to offer further concessions to film studios, but he would not rule it out.
The Prime Minister has come under criticism for his trip to Hollywood after speculation the arrest of MegaUpload founder Kim Dotcom in January was the result of pressure from the American film industry to close down the website which enables users to view and store pirated movies.
Key has dismissed such suggestions as "fantasy" and said the issue was unlikely to be discussed during his Hollywood meetings.
The Government has been dogged by the Dotcom case after it was revealed the police arrest warrants and spying by the Government Communication and Security Bureau (GCSB) were unlawful.
Key told the packed tourism conference he was happy to be introduced as the Tourism Minister, not the Minister for the GCSB.
The screen industry contributed almost $3 billion to the New Zealand economy last year and supported more than 2700 businesses.
- © Fairfax NZ News
Can the ACT Party survive?Related story: ACT life support still on