The chainmail-thick veil of secrecy around Sir Richard Taylor's props and statue-making Weta Workshop has slipped a little with the opening of the new "Window into Workshop" display in Wellington.
Next door to the tiny tourist shop the Weta Cave showing copies of trinkets from Sir Peter Jackson's long list of films, Weta has recently opened up a small part of the actual workshop showing props, costumes and statues but not from the Jackson movies.
Previously, the workshop in the suburb of Miramar has been totally off limits to the public.
Tourist operators in Wellington say privately they have pushed long and hard for something like the workshop tour in the absence of a full-scale museum in the city, which has been talked about by Jackson in the past but has never happened.
Earlier this year it was revealed that Sir Peter Jackson planned to build a world-class film museum in Wellington's Shelly Bay in 2008 but the idea foundered when Sir Ngatata Love's partner Lorraine Skiffington sought $750,000 in consultancy fees to help secure the land.
The Window into Workshop tour costs $20 an adult and $10 a child and opened without fanfare around the time of The Hobbit film premier at the end of November.
So far about 1000 people are understood to have seen the new display.
It has been an instant hit with people from cruise ships and other tourists, though nothing to match the riches from the film itself. The Hobbit movie has taken a worldwide haul of US$434 million.
But don't expect to see props from films such as Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit or King Kong or any future movie props at the new display at Weta Workshop. And no photos are allowed, either.
The film studios control the rights to that intellectual property and the jealously guarded material is not on display.
There is no large scale permanent display or museum for Jackson's films in Wellington though there was a travelling exhibition of Lord of the Rings props, which toured internationally.
Instead the new workshop tour lets visitors see what prop makers, like sculptors, actually do. The tours are led by artists from the workshop, so they know what they are talking about, he said.
"The most important thing is the stories the crew can tell people about how things happen and people can ask questions," according to Weta spokesman Magnus Hjert.
They had not advertised the new tour because they wanted it to "settle in" and it was now running smoothly.
The guided tour takes about 30 minutes, but is limited to 20 people each.
"It is an insight into what we do at Weta Workshop - some of the creativity, sculpture and prop making - and there are a few actual windows where you can watch people going about their work," he said.
It was a way to see some of the props and models "we can show and have been worked on over the years", he said.
"Normally we are governed quite heavily what we can and can't show. People want to have a tour of the workshop and that's not something we can do normally, so that's why we have pulled all this cool stuff together in one place."
Asked why there was not a permanent large museum for Jackson's work, Hjert said:" The focus is making movies not on showcasing it.We have tried in some little way to meet that demand, because we do get a lot of people out there."
- © Fairfax NZ News