For movie buffs, or fans of the works of JRR Tolkien, and there are many, Wellington's Courtenay Place was obviously the place to be on Wednesday, even if it was just to watch the dignitaries parade down the red carpet.
For the second time since the now Oscar-winning director who is now also a knight, Sir Peter Jackson, decided to take on the legendary works of Tolkien, in an ambitious attempt to translate them to the big screen, our capital was also the centre of the motion picture universe.
The first time had been when the global premiere of the third movie in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Return of the King, was held nine years ago, bringing to its culmination a mammoth project many critics had doubted could be achieved. The voters of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences confirmed just what a huge success it had been by bestowing 11 Oscars on that movie, to go with several awarded to the first two.
Now we're going down that road again, with the first of three Hobbit movies premiered on Wednesday and set to go on public release at the end of next week. Another dizzying whirl of Tolkien mania has been well and truly unleashed, and it won't abate significantly until the seal is set on another trilogy.
Some will be over it already, feeling a resurgence of the irritation that accompanied the lengthy passage of Sir Peter's first Tolkien trilogy into silver screen immortality. I lived in Wellington during the time those three movies were released, and it would certainly have been tough on those who weren't interested to avoid running into Rings references at every turn. A little like not liking rugby when the World Cup was on here last year.
For most of the population, though, I'm guessing, these will be another heady couple of years of enjoying the world's eyes on New Zealand.
And there's the rub. The Malcolm Evans cartoon on this page earlier in the week suggested there were many other things the taxpayer dollars channelled towards these movies in one way or another could have been spent on. And there's no doubt they could have been.
But let's not lose sight of the big picture here, if you'll excuse the pun. Yet again, the vision of Sir Peter and those who have stood shoulder to shoulder with him through the making of these movies is going to draw the eyes of the world to New Zealand.
Yet again, tourism will benefit, and it needs a fillip in the wake of the Canterbury earthquakes, and yet again, that tourism revenue will start cycling through the economy, stimulating it towards growth. That's important, and it should ensure those other needs can be addressed too if properly managed. Watch this space...
- The Timaru Herald