The Evening Post
December 17, 2001

Wellington Becomes Middle Earth
Staff Reporter

Wellingtonians woke up in Middle Earth this morning as the Capital declared itself the centre of the cinematic universe in preparation for Wednesday's New Zealand-Australian premiere of The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring.

The $200 million film - part one of a trilogy - has made an international name of Miramar director Peter Jackson and was largely shot around the Wellington region. It will be released worldwide on Thursday and is predicted to be a global smash.

The film has received almost universal acclaim from overseas film critics who have attended screenings in London and New York. They've marvelled at the New Zealand scenery, special effects, acting, music and Jackson's direction.

On Wednesday, Wellington hosts a street party in Courtenay Pl to coincide with the film's premiere and gala screenings.

Overnight more than 20 Middle Earth signs were put up at Wellington Newspapers, Wellington Railway Station, Wellington Central Library, Wellington City Council, Wellington Motorcycles, Wellington International Airport and on many road signs. They will come down on December 23. An 8.5m-cave troll has also been erected on top of the Embassy Theatre.

Wellington Mayor Kerry Prendergast said today the decision to officially change the city's name wasn't made lightly. It was about showing the commitment the city had to the project.

"We think it's important to make a significant gesture to mark an extremely important and exciting week."

Ms Prendergast said Wellington city councillors passed a resolution to change the name of the city earlier this month.

Middle Earth - spelt "Middle-earth" by Rings author J R R Tolkien - is a mythical world in which all events in the Rings trilogy take place.

Bad weather is predicted for the premiere with a forecast of strong southerly winds and rain but the show will go on.

Revellers are advised to wrap up warmly as the temperature is likely to be cool.

If it rains, the film's stars may not walk down the 200m red carpet which will be laid along Courtenay Pl, being driven to the Embassy's entrance instead. The red carpet is made from polypropylene and is expected to withstand heavy rain.

Overseas critics continue to rave about the movie with Newsweek's David Ansen saying: "The movie works. It has real passion, real emotion, real terror, and a tactile sense of evil that is missing in that other current movie dealing with wizards, wonders and wickedness.

"Jackson's fierce, headlong movie takes high-flying risks: it wears its earnestness, and its heart, on its muddy, blood-streaked sleeve."

View the Associated Photo