Dwarves, Elves, a Hobbit and a Wizard pop up in Wellington

Fans from around the world whizzed into Wellington for a costume party and special screening of the third and final Hobbit movie

Fans trekked from far and wide to watch and celebrate the newly released The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies at Wellington’s historic Roxy Theatre, in a special event that was held by film tour specialists Red Carpet Tours at midnight on 10th December 2014.

Before the screening Weta Workshop technicians offered interactive activities to fans, there was also an original set dressing installed by Ra Vincent - set and art director on The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey who was nominated at the 85th Academy Awards for Best Production Design for his work in the film.

The sublimely creative Sir Richard Taylor was also in attendance and a live folk band, banquet tables, cocktail fountains, and themed food brought Middle-earth to life and capped off the night.

Marking the end of an era in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies this special event showcased to the avid fans that despite the final instalment closing the chapter on the Tolkien inspired movies, there are still plenty of adventures in New Zealand’s Middle-earth to be found.

The Middle of Middle-earth Costume Trail

To prove this the fans were also treated to an unexpected journey on Wellington’s newest offering The Middle of Middle-earth Costume Trail.  The newly launched costume trail was created to celebrate the release of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies and to thank Wellington - otherwise known as the Middle of Middle-earth - for its support to the industry during the past 15 years. 

Sir Peter Jackson – director of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies - has temporarily gifted more than 20 costumes and props created by 3 foot 7 and Weta Workshop for visitors to the trail to get a glimpse of.

The trail was officially launched to coincide with the release of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies in New Zealand on December 11th 2014 and will remain in the city until the end of February.

Half a million guest nights are spent in Wellington across the summer period and  “It’s very special for locals and visitors to get this opportunity to see the incredible artistry involved in making these films in Wellington, and to see up close the detail and technique that goes into these amazing costume creations.” Positively Wellington Tourism Chief Executive David Perks said. 

Real Middle-earth costumes

Matt Dravitzki of Wingnut Films said the costumes on display will be the ones featured in the films themselves, rather than replicas.  

“These costumes are a big part of how we tell the on-screen story of Bilbo, Thorin, Legolas, Bard and the others. In each of them you see not just their culture, but the character’s individual history and personality. From the depth of conception to the skill of execution, they are truly works of art in their own right, and we’re delighted that the public will have a chance to explore them at close range here in Wellington,” Matt says.

After packing away their costumes, fans on the Red Carpet Tour spent a special day with Weta on Friday (12.12.14) meeting the likes of Warren Dion Smith (Prosthetics and Make-up demonstration) and Peter Lyons (Sword Making and Weapons presentation)

Peter - Weta’s master swordsmith - gave the fans an opportunity to see some of the weapons and armoury used to create the Middle-earth trilogies.

A senior Weta artist discussed the world of conceptual art in film, taking the fans on a journey through the creation of cinematic production art for Peter Jackson’s films, including The Hobbit trilogy, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, King Kong and The Adventures of Tintin. He also shared insights into how their depictions contributed to the memorable visuals of the films. 

Film tourism

Film tourism is no longer just about locations, according to Positively Wellington Tourism chief executive David Perks. “Visitors flying into Wellington Airport are greeted by Gollum reaching out to catch a fish, Gandalf flying atop a giant eagle and Smaug breathing smoke; these are some of the most photographed attractions in the country.”

Selfies at Te Papa

In addition to the costume trail, Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa –is promoting a new ‘selfie’ photo op with Azog the Defiler – ‘the biggest, baddest Orc of all’.

In The Hobbit movies, Azog the Defiler is a digital creature played by actor Manu Bennett and created using Motion Capture technology by visual effects artists at Weta Digital. The fibreglass statue was created by Weta Workshop to promote the final instalment of the movie trilogy The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.

At 3.5 metres (11’ 6”) from heels to the blades of his mace, Azog makes a formidable foe. As the eye falls on the loin cloth where the faces of his unfortunate victims stare back at the viewer, turning and running seems a logical option - unless you are the fearless Thorin Oakenshield … or want to take a selfie.

Other Hobbit costumes, including an Elf solider and Elf lieutenant, will also be on display at Te Papa as part of the Middle of Middle- earth Costume Trail. Azog will be on display until March 2015.

Wellington film tourism

In the 15 years since the first scene for The Lord of the Rings Trilogy was filmed on Wellington’s Mount Victoria on 11 October 1999, thousands of fans have made the pilgrimage to Oscar-winning director Sir Peter Jackson’s home town.

The Middle-earth journey may be coming to a conclusion on screen, but it’s only just the beginning for the real Middle-earth, says Mr Perks.

“The legacy of one of the most ambitious film-making projects of all time will continue for many years to come. Like the books on which they are based, these movies will be loved and inspire pilgrimages for generations.”

In the 12 months following the première of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in November 2012, sales of film tourism-related tours and product through Wellington’s i-SITE Visitor Centre grew by over NZ$200,000 - an increase of over 20% in 12 months.

International Visitor Survey indicates that 13% of the more than 2.5 million international visitors to the country in the year to June 2014 noted the The Hobbit trilogy was a factor in stimulating their interest in New Zealand as a destination. 

About The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

The film, a production of New Line Cinema and Metro Goldwyn-Meyer Pictures (MGM), is the third and final film in Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit Trilogy and releases across New Zealand cinemas on 11 December.

New Line Cinema and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Present a Wingnut Films Production, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.  As with the first two films in the Trilogy, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, the final film is a production of New Line Cinema and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures (MGM), with New Line managing production. Warner Bros. Pictures is handling worldwide theatrical distribution, with select international territories as well as all international television distribution being handled by MGM.