When it comes to movie making in New Zealand, Wellington is ground zero. The capital is the home base of Peter Jackson, Weta and many other production houses; and when it comes to the tales from J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth, Wellington truly is smack bang in the middle of it! The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies were put together here and the world premiere of The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey were held at the very regal Embassy Theatre in the city (opened in 1924, the theatre underwent a major refurbishment for the world premiere of Return of the King in 2003).
I went and saw The Hobbit at the Embassy on a recent visit to Wellington (I had already seen it before in Australia but couldn’t miss an opportunity to see it in NZ). It was a fantastic theatre and the screening was excellent as I got to see it in the new 48 fps High Frame Rate (HFR) 3D with crisp clean images and amazing colour (it shows twice as many frames per second as normal film and unlike early complaints from some movie goers when it first came out, I did not black out or vomit! In fact I found it far easier to watch than normal 3D and my eyes did not feel anywhere near as tired as they normally do after watching a 3D movie.Go technology!).
Wellington is also where you can visit the Weta Cave, a mini-museum about the movies made or worked on by Weta and it’s co-founders Peter Jackson, Richard Taylor, Tania Rodger and Jamie Selkirk (it is located at their movie studios in Miramar and is free to visit). There are lots of items on display from their movies including props and statues to various collectibles that you can buy.
Since my last visit to Weta in 2009 they have added a 30-40 minute “Window into Workshop” tour that gives a behind the scenes tour and a glimpse into the Weta Workshop to see more movie and TV show props such as weapons and learn how they are made, along with public art displays and so on (you are guided by a Weta staff member who works on the creation of movie props and you can see others actually making things during the tour). This was really cool and well worth the NZ $20 and I got to see some animatronic were-sheep heads from Black Sheep! Alas no photos are allowed on the tour as everything you see is owned by various movie companies, but trust me you wont mind as it is fantastic to get that insider look at how all that movie magic comes to life!
Currently dotted around the city are numerous posters and public art displays associated with the release of The Hobbit. The best ones are the three Trolls – William, Tom and Bert at the Te Papa Museum; and the massive Gollum at the Wellington Airport.
Seeing the Gollum installation at the airport was a great way to end my trip to Wellington. I was suitably impressed!