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'The Hobbit' will stay in New Zealand, prime minister says (update)

"The Hobbit's" New Zealand saga finally appears to be over. The nation's prime minister, John Key, announced Wednesday that his government had reached an agreement with the producers of the two "Hobbit" movies to keep the $500-million production in his country.

"I am delighted we have achieved this result,'' Key said in a statement. "Making the two Hobbit movies here will not only safeguard work for thousands of New Zealanders, but it will also follow the success of the Lord of the Rings trilogy in once again promoting New Zealand on the world stage."

The agreement comes after Key held talks with New Line Cinema President Toby Emmerich and other executives, who wanted assurances that the production would not be disrupted by labor unrest. They also were seeking additional financial sweeteners, which they received.

As part of the agreement, the government said it would broaden the criteria for its film fund, entitling  the producers to receive an additional rebate of up to $7.5 million for each of the "Hobbit" movies. The government also said it will offset $10 million in Warner Bros.' marketing costs as part of a "strategic partnership" with the studio to "promote New Zealand as both a film production and tourism destination."

Warner Bros. and director Peter Jackson had threatened to move the project, which is expected to begin filming in February, following a labor dispute that had erupted between Jackson and New Zealand Actors Equity, which was seeking to provide union benefits to actors on "The Hobbit." 

Warner Bros., its New Line Cinema unit and co-financing partner Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer recently greenlighted production of "The Hobbit," which has had a history of setbacks that delayed shooting for years.

The dispute caused deep anxiety in New Zealand, where the film industry is one of the largest private employers. This week, more than 2,000 actors, crew members and technicians marched in the capital to support keeping the films in New Zealand.

Representatives of Warner Bros. had no immediate comment on the announcement.

[Warner, MGM and New Line issued their own statement on Friday:  "New Line, Warner Bros and MGM are pleased to have concluded successful discussions with the New Zealand government this past week.  We'd like to thank Prime Minister Key, his Cabinet and the other dedicated New Zealand officials for their support and cooperation, which helped assuage our concerns and enabled us to keep The Hobbit in its proper home of New Zealand.  We'd also like to express very special appreciation to Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and the people of New Zealand for their tireless support of The Hobbit and their commitment to maintain and grow their vibrant film industry. Filming is scheduled to begin in February 2011 and we look forward to returning to Middle-earth." ]


-- Richard Verrier 

Photo: A "Hobbit" supporter holds a poster in support of the film in Wellington, New Zealand. Credit: Marty Melville / Getty Images

Comments () | Archives (18)

"The Hobbit" belongs in England. That was the cultural bosom of the stories: the Shires and the mythology of Anglo-Saxon England that inspired those stories.

New Zealand ("Aotearoa" in the Maori language) is a Polynesian country, with Maori language and names as co-official to English.

It is not Europe, except by colonial fantasy.

"Middle Earth" is in England, not in Polynesia.

This Hobbit industry in Aotearoa (New Zealand) is an attempt by the transplant European Colonial Population (mainly British) to legitimate their presence with a mythology from Britain.

Having been to New Zealand several times, and knowing people from there, this is what I have detected: "Hobbit/Middle Earth" is a Neo-Colonial Mythology to reassure the White Colonial Population that "New Zealand" is theirs, stolen fair and square, and not the Maoris (Polynesians).

The Maoris will once again be the majority population in a few decades, and this no doubt revives the older "Colonial Psychological Baggage" from early colonial days. Whites are steadily being returned back to a minority status, constantly reminded of their foreign-ness to Polynesia.

This is why the European-New Zealanders are going bonkers over this movie: it re-energizes their colonial urges and deflects their colonial guilts at having stolen that land by double-faced treaties (the Treaties of Waitangi, saying two different things in the Maori and English versions).

As a New Zealand tax payer, I am disgusted that our Government has chosen to allow a big movie corporate a further tax break just to keep the movie in New Zealand. We have here a movie company that is set to make millions in profit on these movies, where we New Zealander's will give up to $7.5m as a rebate for each movie. Like you Americans, we have our own issues to deal with and $15m can go a damn sight further in helping our own issues than can be done in your home country.

As for the actors and the Aussie that got involved, I am disgusted. I have had some dealings with a person involved with Sir Peter Jackson and this person spoke nothing but praise.

It comes back to one thing, the one with the most is pushing the one with the least round..........again.

Further, I understand that Sir Peter just wanted to get on and make the movie(s) and so did those already involved.

Gee, is NZ going to get some of the merchandise money back? C'mon PJ. Love the LOTR books and was rasied on sci fi and fantasy, but c'mon. Already made billions on LOTR and squabling over a 10 million tax credit.

Bloody heck. Pay the Kiwi's fairly and then take your billions in profits and gloat. Hobbit is about as sure a thing as possible in today's entertainment world. Yeah PJ and the studio should be able to make a profit, but it should not be based on tax breaks that an average Kiwi is giving to them.

Man I detest greedy people.

And the "mighty" entertainment industry now forces governments to "eat my crap if you want my money". If this was even just 5 years ago, Jackson, MGM, WB and everyone else involved would have been on THEIR knees begging to film in New Zealand. Now these self-professed "controllers" get to keep more of the money in their pockets while, as usual, the actors and those who make sure the movies are done to the highest standards, still go home to eat week-old bread. I hope this comes back to bite you all in your collective asses. You're the type of slime that turns people away from the movie industry and turns them in to "mini-me's"

"Sweeteners?" Here in California, we call it extortion. Asking for tax breaks on one of the most profitable movie franchises in history means only one thing.... more money for Peter Jackson, and the heads of WB, New Line, and the bloated joke that is MGM, and less money for the one's who actually make the film.

And the message to the hard working Kiwi actors and crew? Enjoy your measly pay, and be grateful we don't replace you with natives from New Guinea. I heard they're willing to work for bananas.

Another example of American companies willing to ship our jobs overseas, while spouting phony patriotic press releases here at home.

Boycott "Lard of the Rings", and tax american film companies who shoot outside our borders.

It's important to remember that New Zealand is just another commonweath country, not an independent nation. It lives at the British teat. That said, I lived there for three years and learned what cheap, stingy bastards the Kiwis are. It's a "tall poppy" society, which means everyone begrudges another man's opportunity to prosper. The people are anti-American to one degree or another. The Maori are every bit as bad as the Whites in destroying the islands. Together they've destroyed the fisheries, forestry, agriculture, and denuded the country of its forests. Peter Jackson and his thugs destroyed all the sets of the "Lord of the Rings" production which would have provided a tremendous tourist attraction for years to come. New Zealand people like to complain a lot. They're all losers.

Hey Manuel, it's "Maori" as a plural - not "Maoris". Just letting you know since you seem to be such an expert on our people - coming here a whopping three times and all.
By the way, I'd go buy some new grapes - yours are sour.

Manuel Alderete and PJ Andros I've never seen so much utter crap written about any country and its people and culture. No wonder Americans have such an awful reputation for being ignorant of anything and anyone outside their own backyard.
Why launch into writing posts on a subject you have no knowledge of and demonstrate your stupidity. It would be easy for New Zealand people to assume life in the US was what we're fed relentlessly on TV and that everyone there is like the idiots on Fox News but we give y'all the benefit of the doubt. I've visited the US many times but I don't presume to judge you all because of the few loony locals I encountered.
Last time I looked we were an independent country with its own government and not subservient to England but maybe I missed something you can see from over there .... just as Ms Palin sees Russia from her house. Where you got your predictions of the Maori population swamping the rest is also something of a mystery too but hey, what the hell. Hopefully you won't be teaching my kids.

Wow, what a bitter bunch of comments!

This is great news for NZ . All of my friends and acquaintances in the film industry here (actors and crew alike) are delighted at this announcement. And I have not met a single person who begrudges the taxpayer support, which will help both the film and tourist industries. Subsidies are not new - how much has the US spent supporting its agricultural, steel and car industries over the years?

Of course Tolkein was British, but he was writing about Middle Earth, an earlier age before widespread cultivation. As a much more sparsely populated nation than Britain, NZ provides a useful filming location for his stories. Moreover, the NZ film industry has proved itself capable of creating Oscar-winning special effects (primarily through Weta Digital).

Are Kiwis 'cheap, stingy bastards'? Well, we earn less than Australians, Brits and Americans, so yes, we are careful with our money, buying second-hand cars and 'making-do'. But I've lived in several countries, and have found New Zealanders to be friendly, cheerful and helpful.

And this nonsense about 'colonial urges'? Yes, European colonists stole land in NZ, just as they did in the US, Canada, South America and Australia, and as has happened in every other nation through history. NZ makes a far greater effort than most nations to acknowledge and address this, with recent treaty settlements to return land to Maori, and well-funded programmes to promote Maori language and culture. Our national anthem has both English and Maori verses, and the Maori Party are part of the ruling political coalition.

Less of the negative sentiment, please, this is great news for New Zealand and for the movies!

NZ does not exactly have Warner Bros. over a barrel.

With the all-digital process anybody can shoot a movie anywhere.

10 years ago it was critical to have major infrastructure like film labs and post-production houses nearby. But no longer.

@ Manuel Alderete, take your rose tinted glasses off and go smell the coffee. The Maori were not the first here, I suggest you go check your facts before engaging your mouth. It was possible that America could have been a British colony also many years ago - think about it.

@PJANDROS, so we are 'cheap, stingy bastards, anti-American and all losers' huh? Well sport, let me tell you one thing - I SURE AS HELL ARE NOT. What I learnt about America - Out of LA Americans are just like us NZer's. I suggest you suck it in and out your bets foot forward at the Rugby World Cup and we'll see who the losers are then huh? Rugby 7's, oh America did not win, thats right, so your losers then?

It's astounding the level of ignorance displayed here by Mr Alderete and others. As a white New Zealander I assure you we don't look to England for the teat and certainly not to fantasy fiction for our sense of who we are anymore than Manuel might look to Don Quixote for his. In fact you're more likely to be welcomed in England if you're from almost anywhere else, Portugal for example.
This is about work and income for a small industry in a small country. NZ does have it's colonial past but has done more to reach an equality between the various races than almost any other nation..we did cut down the trees but anyone with a european surname needs to be careful throwing stones in that glass-house...... AND we're certainly not anti-American.
Greg in USA.

@ Greg Johnson

You say NZ doesn't look to England? Rubbish, mate.

1) NZ is part of the British Commonwealth ("dominion" status)
2) The Queen of England is the legal Head of State (via a Governor General)
3) I turn on the TV and I see BBC news. I turn on the radio and I hear Robbie Williams.
4) Until recently, NZ handled Supreme Court cases in England.
5) Whose face is on the currency = The Queen of England
6) The UK is the #1 place of choice for expat Kiwis
7) The Union Jack is on the NZ flag.
8) "God Defend New Zealand" is a lip-sync of "God Save The Queen"

Sorry mate. Your folks are clinging to England culturally, economically, sport-wise, legally, and even down to driving on the left-hand side of the road.

Cut that umbilical cord to "Momma England" and maybe you will have a point...maybe. You'd still have to assimilate into Maori culture, though.

And we know your folks will never do that. This is why NZ is still a colonial nation.

(to be fair, so is the "United States", although it is an "autonomous European colonial/outlaw" state)

Get 'em, Greg.

"It's been so long"


Wow! This is getting good!
Lets take a look America, the Union Jack...it's on the HAWAIIAN FLAG.

As for whingers, I have seen plenty of Americans bleat on these blogs.

As for the Hobbit belonging in England. Nope, your wrong. There is no better scenery than here in New Zealand and we have Peter Jackson. We had the best motorcycle designer/builder - the late John Britten. His bikes were and still are the best and world beaters. We had a kiwi fly before the Wright Brothers http://www.ctie.monash.edu.au/hargrave/pearse1.html We are not losers.

Mr Alderete, if I knew where you lived, I would be happy to make contact with you and that if you where ever down these parts, I would take you into my home to enjoy Kiwi hospitality. I have been shown American hospitality and it was most appreciated.


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