The Dominion
December 17, 2001

US Visitors in the Thick of Middle Earth Fanfare
Staff Reporter

As Wellington was renamed "Middle Earth" to herald the week of The Lord of the Rings fanfare and to pay tribute to director Peter Jackson yesterday, a group of American visitors was on top of the world.

The winners of an America Online draw among two million subscribers of the giant Internet service provider have come to New Zealand as guests of Jackson's Weta studios.

Posing in front of the giant troll adorning the Embassy Theatre, the winners and their accompanying family members, all seemed slightly shell-shocked but excited at landing abruptly in the land of Peter Jackson's filming.

Adding to the starting fanfare yesterday, Wellington Mayor Kerry Prendergast paid tribute to director Jackson.

"The most ambitious movie project in the history of cinema is now hitting the screens around the world - and it was created here in Wellington," she said.

"For the week till midnight on December 23 we will be Middle Earth Wellington. It's one way of showing Rings' fans around the world how committed to the project we are and how proud we are."

"Peter Jackson, the director, is truly a local boy made good. We want to pay tribute to Peter and his talents. He has brought great fame and fortune to the city. He is a creative genius.

In the past couple of years, Peter had helped to visibly change Wellington. His project had injected hundreds of millions of dollars into the local economy and provided work for many talented people, she said.

"His importance cannot be overestimated."

The name change, voted for by Wellington City councillors earlier this month, can be seen on key buildings and road signs, including the central library, the airport, the city gallery and Wellington Newspapers' offices.

It was confirmed yesterday that Wednesday's big procession from Civic Square to the theatre - in which Wellingtonians are invited to join street performers and "Middle Earthers" - is planned to arrive in Courtenay Place just before 5pm when the celebrations are due to begin.

The 200 metre-long red carpet, acting as a promenade for the street entertainers and a walkway for the guests and celebrities, will be fenced off from the expected thousands of spectators.

View the Associated Photo