The Evening Post
December 22, 2001

Focus on Capital in Wake of Rings
Simon Beattie

Cameras from around the world could be turning their focus on Wellington in the next few months, with production companies making dozens of inquiries about filming here.

Inquiries have flooded in since the Australasian premiere of director Peter Jackson's The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring at the Embassy Theatre on Wednesday night.

Filmed in New Zealand - largely in the Wellington region - the $650 million trilogy showed Kiwis had the skills, technology and infrastructure to compete with the best film-makers in the world.

The cheap Kiwi dollar is also a drawcard, as it's worth less than half that of the US dollar.

Jackson has repeatedly said the Rings project couldn't have been made in any other country.

Wellington Regional Economic Development Agency film and television manager Jean Johnston said attention on the Rings meant the international spotlight was shining right on Wellington as a film location.

"It's been phenomenal. It's beyond our wildest dreams. I've had so many e-mails and phone calls and the number of hits to our website have been remarkable. There is a lot of interest, mainly from producers in the US and some from the United Kingdom, Germany, Holland and Asia. With Peter [Jackson] publicly praising the city for its attitude to assisting film productions, interest has never been higher."

Ms Johnston said the international interest wasn't just from feature film-makers, but also from TV and commercial producers.

She said the makers of British children's TV programme Blue Peter have just announced they would be coming to shoot in the Capital next month.

Minister responsible for The Lord Of The Rings Pete Hodgson said the trilogy had put New Zealand on the world film map and the multi-million dollar film industry could grow ten-fold.

"There is no doubt where Rings was made: In New Zealand by New Zealanders."

He said it had created an opportunity to see whether a permanent quality film infrastructure could stay in New Zealand. But the country lacked screen-writing courses, had a shortage of entertainment industry lawyers, and weak protection of film intellectual property rights.

Mr Hodgson said Kiwis could use the Rings project to sell New Zealand overseas, promoting the fact that digital technology for the movies was made here.

The first Rings movie officially opened in cinemas on Thursday and is predicted to be a global smash hit, pulling in hundreds of millions of dollars at the box office. In New Zealand, The Fellowship of the Ring broke all previous opening day box office records with ticket sales of $720,933. Star Wars: The Phantom Menace held the previous record of $516,333.