As movie fans await the impending release of the second film of The Hobbit Trilogy - and another epic dose of Middle-earth landscapes - New Zealand has taken a cue from Hollywood.
The country that provided the epic scenery that backdrops the The Hobbit Trilogy movies has popped up The Book of New Zealand - a gigantic installation in the grounds of the Beverly Hilton Hotel that’s designed to tell the New Zealand story and how film fantasy becomes reality for visitors in New Zealand.
The Book of New Zealand will be on site at the Beverly Hilton for five days coinciding with the Hollywood world première of The Hobbit : The Desolation of Smaug - produced and directed by acclaimed Kiwi film-maker Sir Peter Jackson.
Jackson’s epic Tolkien-inspired productions of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit Trilogies have created a legendary fan following and been at the source, over the past decade, of a film tourism phenomenon for his home country New Zealand.
The much-anticipated The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, a production of New Line Cinema and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures, is scheduled for worldwide release on 13 December, 2013.
The Book of New Zealand installation is a spectacular pop-up book occupying an area roughly the size of two tennis courts and 40’ high - making it the world’s largest book - and housed in a covered structure that has been constructed over the past three weeks on the Beverly Hilton carpark.
It will set the stage for media activity and cast interviews with The Hobbit Trilogy stars for the media junket based around the LA première of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug on Monday (2.12.2013) and provide an innovative setting for New Zealand hospitality and film business events.
The Book of New Zealand is divided into four sets representing principal filming locations from the new film - Hidden Bay (Turoa, Ohakune), Forest River (Pelorus River, Marlborough) Lake-town (Lake Pukaki, Mt Cook), and Beorn’s House (Paradise, Queenstown).
With original pieces of the actual movie sets and living features of the real landscapes, The Book employs multi-media production techniques and film-making wizardry to show how the film fantasy is firmly attached to the real life Middle-earth landscapes of New Zealand.
Guests will literally step into the giant book and take a unique journey through four of the principal filming locations for the Trilogy, combining the actuality of the book, and the magic of the movies with the reality of the Middle-earth locations.
The Book of New Zealand - featuring houses, bridges, lakes, forests and mountains - has been created by a team of The Hobbit Trilogy film-makers working in Wellington, New Zealand.
From an idea created for Tourism New Zealand by advertising agency WHYBIN\TBWA New Zealand, it was brought to life under the direction of Dan Hennah (production designer for The Hobbit Trilogy), Ra Vincent (set decorator, The Hobbit Trilogy), and Simon Bright (supervising art director, The Hobbit Trilogy).original set designs, the art directors have adapted some of the film’s most complex set constructions into an innovative walk-through experience.
"The motivation for the pop-up book is to demonstrate New Zealand’s Middle-earth starring role," Hennah said. "The beauty of those locations and backgrounds is real, not a digitallty created element."
Authentic props used for The Book of New Zealand include the giant wooden armchair from Beorn’s house, two-level waterside houses and boats from Lake-town and the brooding bust of the dwarf king Thror that stood over the entrance to Lonely Mountain.
The larger-than-life set is the result of several months' planning and construction. Built at a secret location in Wellington, it was dismantled and packed into six 40’ shipping containers for transport to Los Angeles where it has been reassembled.
The Book of New Zealand was revealed in a grand opening ceremony and the key media event of the five-day entertainment media junket. Director Peter Jackson and The Hobbit Trilogy stars - Martin Freeman, Evangeline Lily, Richard Armitage, Luke Evans, Dean O’Gorman, Aidan Turner - were all there for the opening.
The opening featured a 90-second audio visual presentation with some surprise elements including an appearance by Peter Jackson and a thrush that flies across the giant screen over the four real locations and into the depths of Smaug’s lair to herald the opening of the book.
The four new locations and the sets - under wraps until now - were revealed with the lifting of the giant screen.
During the week, the Book of New Zealand will host visits from The Hobbit Trilogy stars who will be on set for media interviews.
Access to The Book of New Zealand installation will be reserved for a series of invitation-only events but a select group of lucky film fans will have the chance to browse the pages as part of a special Public Day tour on 4 December.
The VIP area in the centre of the construction holds up to 225 people.
Tourism New Zealand’s Chief Executive Kevin Bowler says the organisation’s objective with the exhibit is to use it to tell the story of New Zealand as a fun, must-see tourism destination, as well as an innovative and creative nation, and a great place to make films and do business.
"New Zealand has come to California with a spectacular display that will be open for five days. You will literally step into a giant book of New Zealand and travel through four of the principal filming locations for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug," says Kevin.
"From afar, The Book depicts New Zealand, but then, as you step inside its pages, the locations from the movie come alive as you walk through actual film sets.
"We are delighted to be a part of the worldwide media programme in Los Angeles, and believe The Book of New Zealand will motivate all those who experience it to share the wider New Zealand story."
About 100% Middle-earth, 100% Pure New Zealand
Tourism New Zealand's new three-year marketing strategy features publicity related to The Hobbit Trilogy in conjunction with its on-going 100% Middle-earth, 100% Pure New Zealand campaign.
Tourism New Zealand is working to convert the international attention drawn to the film Trilogy’s production in New Zealand into a campaign which demonstrates how easy it is for people to come to New Zealand, see Middle-earth first hand, and experience all the country has to offer.
Investment in marketing New Zealand's association with The Hobbit Trilogy is paying off in increased visitor motivation and arrivals.
Tourism New Zealand's own Active Considerer monitor shows the impact of the campaign, first launched in August 2012, in key markets, with 82% of respondents stating the campaign increases their interest in New Zealand, and 73% stating the campaign improved their opinions of New Zealand.
International Visitor Arrivals data for January-September 2013 show that holiday arrivals into New Zealand are up 10.5% as of last year. Holiday arrivals from the United States, a key target market for the Middle-earth campaign, are up 19% during the same period last year.
Information gathered from the International Visitor Survey shows that 8.5% of all international visitors surveyed January to March this year, say The Hobbit films were a factor in stimulating their interest in New Zealand as a destination.
13% of international visitors over January to June 2013 say they took in a Hobbit-inspired experience while in New Zealand, including group tours specifically visiting film sites or visiting Hobbiton.
About 'The Hobbit' Trilogy
The second in a trilogy of films adapting the enduring and popular masterpiece The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug continues the adventures of title character Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) as he journeys with the Wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and 13 dwarves, led by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) on an epic quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is a production of New Line Cinema and 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.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug opens worldwide beginning on Friday, December 13, 2013.