'Hobbit' Movies To Be Made In NZ

27 Oct

WELLINGTON, New Zealand: Peter Jackson's “Hobbit” movies will be made in New Zealand after the government struck a deal with Hollywood studio Warner Bros., Prime Minister John Key said Wednesday.

“I am delighted we have achieved this result,” Key told reporters.

“Making the movies here will not only safeguard work for thousands of New Zealanders, but will also allow us to follow the success of 'The Lord of the Rings'.”

Key said on Wednesday that senior Warner Bros. executives were pushing for large financial incentives during negotations in Wellington to keep the 500 million US dollar production in New Zealand.

The prime minister, who has personally led the talks to prevent a union row forcing Peter Jackson's latest Tolkien epic offshore, said Warner had asked for “lots, and we're not offering lots”.

New Zealand's rugged scenery was a key element in “The Lord of the Rings” but a row over union representation had cast doubt on the shooting location for “The Hobbit”, a two-part prequel to the original trilogy.

In response, top studio executives, including the head of Warner's New Line production house Toby Emmerich, flew to Wellington this week to examine whether the Middle Earth movies should be shot elsewhere.

With discussions still deadlocked after two days, Key said he had offered to change industrial laws to ensure “The Hobbit” could meet production deadlines without the threat of union action.

A frustrated Jackson launched a fresh broadside at the actors' union behind the dispute, NZ Equity, saying he was “incredibly angry” it threatened his project without properly consulting its members.

The Oscar-winning director also disputed NZ Equity's assertion that it called for an international boycott of “The Hobbit” last month after he refused to negotiate with it on minimum conditions for actors on the set.

Jackson said the union called the ban, which has since been lifted, before contacting him about its concerns.

“They are attempting to characterise their actions as an innocent request for a meeting, but the truth is they kept a loaded gun to our heads the entire time,” he said in a statement.

Opposition industrial relations spokesman Trevor Mallard said Warner was using the union row as leverage to gain more taxpayer funds for the project.

“I don't want to characterise them as shaking the government down but they're clearly trying to get every last dollar that they can,” Mallard told Radio NZ.
-AFP/wk

Channel News Asia

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