Govt made Hobbit possible - Weta founder

HAMISH RUTHERFORD IN BEIJING
Last updated 07:08 12/04/2013
Richard Taylor
KENT BLECHYNDEN/Fairfax NZ
SIR RICHARD TAYLOR: The Hobbit has recently opened in China.

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Weta Workshops founder Sir Richard Taylor has hailed Prime Minister John Key at a gala dinner in Beijing, saying The Hobbit movie "was made possible, in no small part" by his government.

The last major showpiece event in a week-long trade visit, delegation-member Sir Richard used his keynote speech last night to indirectly praise Key's controversial decision to give Warner Brothers a special concessions to ensure the filming stayed in New Zealand.

The Hobbit has recently opened in China, with Key saying embassy staff had successfully lobbied to have it as one of the 40 or so foreign films released here annually, but also just after the Chinese New Year, to maximise its return.

Box office takings in China had seen the movie gross more than US$1 billion, Warner Brothers had told Key.

Taylor told the audience The Hobbit "was made possible in no small part by this Right Honourable John Key and the Government, who came and helped facilitate the realising of this film for all of the film industry in our country", adding that making films needed "understanding".

In late 2010 the government changed employment laws at the same time as announcing extra tax concessions, to ensure Warner Brother did not carry out threats to take the filming of The Hobbit overseas.

Documents which the Ombudsman forced the government to release earlier this year showed weeks before the law change was announced, government ministers did not believe the move was required.

Taylor said the potential opportunities for New Zealand and China in the media industry were massive.

Weta was now distributing children's shows throughout China, as well as hosting six Chinese students at the company, he said.

"Through the creative arts, mass-media entertainment and the film industry specifically, the opportunities that exist between our countries offer an incredibly fulfilling future," Taylor said, adding that New Zealand had made $3.3 billion from the film industry in the past year.

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