Middle-earth fever (as in this picture of the Hakaru Valley, above, by Sids1) is set to send tourist numbers soaring in New Zealand, as the first instalment in the Hobbit trilogy, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, makes its world premiere in Wellington on November 28.
Filling the void left by the three-film adaptation of JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings almost a decade ago, director Sir Peter Jackson is bringing the Hobbit franchise to the big screen
A giant clock in the country’s capital, complete with an image of Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins, is already counting down the minutes to the premiere of the first instalment.
The 2003 procession for the world premiere of The Return of the King attracted around 120,000 spectators, and a similar turnout is expected for the debut of the Hobbit trilogy. Wellington mayor Celia Wade-Brown said: “It will be a real carnival atmosphere.”
Wade-Brown also confirmed that in the days leading up to the premiere, Wellington will be “renamed” the “Middle of Middle-earth”.
Visitor numbers to the Hobbiton Movie Set and Farm Tours, near the quiet rural town of Matamata, in the North Island Waikato region, are set to swell from current figures of around 20,000 a year, as large parts of the first trilogy were shot there.
In an attempt to capitalise on the expected success of the Hobbit franchise, the country’s national tourism slogan “100% Pure New Zealand” has become “100% Middle-earth”.
Earlier this year, Air New Zealand announced a global two-movie partnership with The Hobbit franchise.
Working with Weta Workshop, a Boeing 777-300 will turn into an airborne billboard for the first movie, while a Boeing 777-200 will get an advertising overhaul for the second movie, The Hobbit: There and Back Again. Air New Zealand crew members even dressed up Middle-earth-style (photos courtesy of the theflyingsocialnetwork.com):
Wade-Brown said that the recent transformation has been “absolutely extraordinary for our capital” and that the Hobbit films may also lead to short-term gains for the city, particularly in terms of tourism.
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