Live from Middle Earth
The excitement starts miles away as passengers on Air New Zealand flights are welcomed on board a flight, not to Wellington but to the “Middle of Middle Earth”. The safety video too is an unexpected briefing and comes with a message from Gandalf.
At Wellington Airport’s main terminal a 40 feet sculpture of Gollum catching fish welcomes visitors and at baggage claim your luggage comes through a Hobbit home into The Shire a.k.a unto the conveyor belt. Bilbo Baggins and his 13 dwarves line the fifth floor of the New Zealand Post Office building and are especially fun to see when lit at night.
Wellington’s Embassy Theater where the premiere took place tonight is a sight to behold. A giant sculpture of Gandalf has been hoisted onto the facade depicting the wizard outside of the door to Bilbo Baggins house. A clock on the front of the theatre had been counting down to the premiere since October. Even the weatherman this morning came from the elven community and included a forecast for Bilbo’s hometown. Over 100,000 fans came to Wellington, Hobbit ears are nearly sold out in town and crowds cheered as around 5 PM an Air New Zealand plane painted with “Hobbit” characters flew low over Wellington’s Embassy Theatre. Stars and VIPs walked the red carpet from Reading Cinema to The Embassy Theatre, both of which were screening the film for invited guests.
The city of Wellington invested $1.1 million towards activities in the week leading up to the premiere, including outdoor screenings of the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy and a Hobbit-inspired “artisan festival”. The festival showcases the talents of 30 artists who contributed to the films, and runs for five days in Waitangi Park. At the Tourist Office visitors can obtain a free Middle of Middle Earth map showcasing all film related locations. The staff at the bureau is dressed in Hobbit costumes, ears and all.
Filming for “The Hobbit” began in Wellington in March 2011 and the movies have been in production throughout 2012. Filmed throughout the country, with more than 2,000 New Zealanders and international cast involved, the “Hobbit” trilogy was shot in digital 3D using the latest technology.
Places to visit:
Weta Cave to view props and get your fill of collectibles plus a free behind-the-scene movie.
Embassy Theatre a historic theatre built in 1926. It was the venue of the world premiere of “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” and is host of the world premiere of “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.”
Roxy Cinema a beautifully revamped cinema in Miramar in art deco style owned by Richard Taylor and Jamie Selkirk and currently also decorated for the opening of the movie.
Mount Victoria is the location of the first day of shooting for “The Lord of the Rings.” Mount Victoria has fantastic views of Wellington city and harbor.
Non “Hobbit” related must do’s:
Visit the National Museum of NZ – Te Papa
Visit or volunteer for a day at ZEALANDIA: The Karori Sanctuary Experience
To catch a star:
Popular with cast and crew of “The Hobbit” are Café Polo, The Larder and La Boca Loca in Miramar. Logan Brown and The White House were popular with Frodo aka Elijah Wood during filming of “The Lord of the Rings.”
In 2011 I stayed at Museum Art Hotel Wellington, a privately owned 160 room luxury hotel located opposite the Te Papa museum and a short walk to theatres, shopping, the waterfront and Waitangi Park.
On this visit I stay at the Amora Hotel who upon my arrival was host to a pre-Hobbit Premiere party organized by TheOneRing.net fan club. The excitement at the party went from party mood to Hobbit fever when Sir Peter Jackson and Elijah Wood dropped in unexpectedly on the delighted Hobbit fans.
Nearly all the rooms at this contemporary hotel offer unobstructed views of the Wellington Harbor and/or the city and is located right in the arts and entertainment district.
Guests can walk to Te Papa and the Waterfront. Adjacent is the Wellington Convention Centre and Town Hall.
Souvenirs galore: “Hobbit” currency, figurines, posters and the obligatory postcard from Middle Earth comes of course with Hobbit stamps. Truly yours pleads guilty to all of the above.
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