‘Hobbits’ hit the streets

Thousands of film industry workers
who hope to be involved in the production of The Hobbit have staged rallies
across New Zealand amid fears the film will be made elsewhere.

The director Sir Peter Jackson, who
put his home country on the movie-making map with the Lord Of The Rings
trilogy, has warned that Hollywood studio executives are considering relocating
the two-part prequel because of fears of industrial action.

An Australian-based union, the
Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance, had demanded a boycott because of what
it claimed were poor pay and conditions on offer.

Although the action has now been
withdrawn, it was enough to frighten Warner Brothers, which is bankrolling the
epic production, estimated to cost more than $472 million.

Sir Peter says they need to be
certain that the long-awaited film version of The Hobbit will not be disrupted.

The Oscar-winning filmmaker said:
“To tell the studio why investing $500 million in our country is a good
idea when they’ve just seen the disgusting frivolous action that has happened,
I don’t know what to say, I literally don’t know.

“What happens in a year’s time
when Warner Brothers has spent $250 million, they are half-way through the film
and the actors decide to have some fun again – it’s like it could happen all
over again, they have no confidence.”

The rallies were timed to coincide
with a visit to New Zealand by studio executives who will have the final say.

They will also meet the country’s
Prime Minister John Key, who says there’s a 50-50 chance of The Hobbit being
saved.

He said: “I’d love to tell you
that it’s a done deal, but we’re a long way away from being a done deal.

“They like New Zealand, and
clearly Peter Jackson wants to work out of New Zealand, but in the end this is
the better part of a half to three quarters of a million dollars that Warner
Brothers need to invest and they’ve got to be sure they can hit deadlines,
they’ve got to be sure that they can make the movies, and it’s got to be cost
competitive.

The unions claim that they’ve been
made a scapegoat and that the Hollywood studio is simply looking for a way of
maximising its profits.

Alternative locations in Eastern
Europe have been examined, and Leavesden Studios near Watford, where the Harry
Potter films were made, could also be used.

But New Zealand will fight hard to
keep its precious Hobbit, because hundreds of thousands of tourists come to the
country every year to see where Lord Of The Rings was filmed.

Filming is due to start next
February, with a release date for each part expected in December 2012 and 2013.

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