Watching over Matamata's Hobbiton i-Site
$25,000 Gollum stands guardCHRIS GARDNER
Gollum will again stand guard over Hobbiton.
A 170kg bronze statue of the popular character will stand guard outside Matamata's i-Site building, which is being transformed into a gatehouse to the restored Hobbiton Movie Set Tours at a cost of $250,000.
The i-Site is expecting tourists on The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit pilgrimages to double to about 400,000 visitors a year after the general release of The Hobbit Part 1 on December 14.
The world premiere of Sir Peter Jackson's new film is tomorrow night in Wellington.
The new statue, which cost the Matamata Public Relations Association $25,000, replaces a stone carving of Gollum which had been vandalised and then removed by the disappointed association.
''He was bashed,'' said Sue Whiting, manager of the Matamata i-Site.
''He was in so many pictures taken by tourists we decided to purchase Gollum from Weta.''
The statue shows Gollum perched atop a rock, juicy fish in hand, at the edge of the Forbidden Pool where he fishes from in The Two Towers.
He plays a pivotal role in The Hobbit, being responsible for Bilbo Baggins discovery of the one ring of power which is eventually handed on to Frodo Baggins at the start of The Fellowship of the Ring .
Before becoming Gollum, the creature seen in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, he was a stoor hobbit of the river folk called Smeagol.
But the ring corrupted him and transformed him.
Gollum will stand guard over the i-Site from Thursday when the gatehouse is officially opened and there are plans to set up a web cam permanently focussed on him to allow tourists to text their families and friends and see them in Matamata.''
The Matamata community is excited about the launch of The Hobbit and the redevelopment of the Hobbiton Movie Set,'' Mrs Whiting said.
''The Matamata i-SITE Gatehouse can be the beginning of the journey for our visitors - it will spark the magic.''
The town's businesses are sharing in the magic, creating their own slice of The Shire outside their premises with Hobbiton-style gardens and painted windows.
The entire community will share in the Gatehouse opening with celebrations, entertainment and activities to suit all ages planned on the 'Party Field' created close to the building.
While festivities begin about 3pm and will end late in the evening, the official opening will take place from 5pm onwards.