Kingdom movie is no-show

Last updated 00:09 21/02/2009

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THE proposed Hollywood movie Kingdom Come, which was to have been filmed in various locations around New Zealand, including Falstone on the shore of Lake Benmore, appears to have come and gone.

While an official announcement has yet to be made, The Herald understands the pin may have been pulled on the movie about the life of Jesus Christ.

The United States-based publicist for the picture, Ernie Malik, told The Herald an announcement was due to be made yesterday but had been delayed.

However, moteliers in Twizel have had bookings cancelled and an email received by them this week said the movie was no longer going ahead.

The production company is believed to have already spent about $60 million in New Zealand, including several million on a set and props at the Falstone camping ground.

Falstone was to have become Capernaum, a 3000-year-old fishing village, and Lake Benmore the Sea of Galilee in the Biblical movie.

At its peak the set had more than 100 contractors working on-site but there has been no further work since before Christmas.

When The Timaru Herald visited Falstone the set looked three-quarters finished and a single security guard was patrolling the perimeter.

Construction equipment could be seen that had clearly been left behind in the hope that work would restart and The Herald understands several contractors and accommodation providers in Twizel had yet to be paid.

In one corner of the fenced-off site were numerous props, including carts, wooden fish-splitting tables and woven baskets.

A resource consent was issued by Waitaki District Council in August last year for the Falstone set and it gave 12 months for the shooting to be completed.

Wellington-based film company South Vineyard's original shooting schedule shows the movie should be under way, with the village expected to be dismantled before April.

It is understood investors are nervous because US networks have been reluctant to buy the film.

Dean Wright, the film's New Zealand director, was a visual effects supervisor on The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and Prince Caspian.

About 100 extras from around South Canterbury responded last year to casting calls seeking people who could pass as Middle Eastern, Moroccan, North African or Mediterranean.

The Dominion Post visited sets near Mt Crawford Prison and in Stone St in Wellington's eastern suburbs this week, where only the occasional security guard appeared to still be at work.

Film workers in Wellington were waiting for news at their homes. They said some contractors had moved on to other jobs and were picking up gear from the Stone St site, while others were now registering for the unemployment benefit.

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A person who had not worked on the film since December said he received an email on Thursday night saying the situation was "looking positive to start on the 27th [of February]".

"But that's what they've said before. It would be probably less than 50-50 ... [Before Christmas] we got an official letter saying we would start back on the 5th of January and that was just as positive."

The film's producers did not respond to requests for comment.


- South Canterbury

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