Thousands of tourists a day are drinking to the success of Matamata's Hobbiton, making the nearby Green Dragon Inn probably the country's busiest bar.
Hobbiton chief executive Russell Alexander said the predicted influx of tourists a year after the first of Sir Peter Jackson's Hobbit trilogy, An Unexpected Journey, materialised over the Christmas and New Year holidays. The second Hobbit movie, The Desolation of Smaug, is now on general release with a third to come.
"It's happened all right," said Mr Alexander, who is in partnership with Jackson. "We are 100 per cent up on last year."
On the busiest day, Mr Alexander said, Hobbiton staff conducted 60 tours of the film set.
"That's one every 10 minutes," he said.
Each tour could take up to 41 tourists, meaning a maximum of 2460 visited that day.
If all had paid the full adult entry fee of $75 that's a turnover of $184,500 from ticket sales alone.
That should help pay for the 150 staff and contractors on site during summer, compared to 17 just 18 months ago, and the 4 new coaches, more than doubling the Hobbiton fleet to 7.
Tourists have guzzled their way through 50,000 litres of special Hobbit brew since the Green Dragon Inn was opened on November 29, 2012, by Prime Minister John Key and the actors who played the dwarfs in the trilogy.
They've drunk 50,000 litres of Hobbit label Southfarthing Girdley Fine Grain Amber Ale, Southfarthing Sackville Cider and Frogmorton Ginger Beer.
All three are brewed, exclusively, by the Good George brewery in Hamilton and are using the Hobbit label at the suggestion of the Saul Zeantz Company which owns the rights to The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.
"It's just been fantastic," said Jason Macklow of the Good George. "At one point we were supplying 55 kegs of beer a week. We now own about 1200 kegs."
Mr Macklow thought that level of consumption made The Green Dragon Inn one of the busiest bars in the country, if not the busiest.
His one brewer has been joined by 3 others since they picked up the contract with Hobbiton.
Hobbiton and the Good George have joined forces to offer the beers and cider in Hobbiton's new souvenir shop, which opened this month, selling 1 litre bottles for $25 and 500ml bottles for $13.
Contractors, like Hobbit art director Brian Massey, Matamata builder Darren Roa and Wellington architect Gavin Urquart, have built the new souvenir shop, extended the Shire's Rest Cafe and doubled the size of the Hobbiton car park since November.
Yesterday they were putting finishing touches to the complex.
Mr Massey, who was also behind the Middle Earth-style makeover of Matamata's tourist information centre, has just finished placing around 400 extra props around the set.
That includes more washing on Hobbiton's washing lines, fish hanging from a drying rack at the side of the lake and an abandoned Hobbit picnic.
"We are trying to make it look like you are not walking into a set but a real village," Mr Massey said.
Hobbiton is now visited by around 2050 tourists per day.
- Waikato Times
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