Hobbiton™ Movie Set, near Matamata in New Zealand’s Waikato region, has welcomed its one millionth visitor in a celebration that coincides with the very reason for its existence.
As the movie set milestone was reached in the lush hills of the real Middle-earth- New Zealand, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies - the final film in Sir Peter Jackson’s epic move trilogies adapting the timeless novels of J.R.R. Tolkien – was being released to the world on DVD/Blu-Ray.
Few would have realised the impact the movies would have on the real Middle-earth, New Zealand. Hobbiton Movie Set is now one of New Zealand’s most visited tourist attractions and has become an international bucket-list travel destination. Since filming wrapped on The Hobbit Trilogy, New Zealand has seen an unprecedented increase in the flow of fans and tourists to the country, with more visitors than ever before citing the popular films as an influencing factor when choosing New Zealand as a holiday destination.
Hobbiton Movie Set’s General Manager Russell Alexander was on-hand to welcome the one millionth visitor - US visitor Don McCormack - and present him with an exact replica of the Trilogies’ emblematic 'The One Ring', made in Nelson, New Zealand, along with a bottle of the Green Dragon’s finest ale.
"It is a very exciting and humbling achievement to have hosted one million guests over the past 13 years, it’s an incredible milestone. We are extremely proud of our enduring role in the real Middle-earth and we look forward to hosting many more visitors in the years to come,” says Alexander.
One million hobbits
Don McCormack, the Hobbiton Movie Set’s one millionth visitor, was ecstatic with his prize and couldn’t wait to send pictures to his grandson back home in America.
“It was really unexpected. We were coming just to enjoy the set, and we are excited about being the one millionth visitor. We’re die-hard fans; when the latest movie came out we had to wait in line to get tickets to go see it."
From Lake Matthews, Southern California, McCormack and his wife Jennifer, who have been enjoying a trip around the North Island of New Zealand, described Hobbiton as “unbelievably beautiful”.
“I can’t believe how much detail there is, it’s unbelievable. I’m amazed that everything around it is all real. This little piece of Middle-earth is amazing, and I’m really looking forward to seeing the rest of it."
Middle-earth lives on
Middle-earth fans, fascinated by the world Sir Peter Jackson captured on film during his The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit Trilogies, continue to visit the dramatic scenery of New Zealand - the cinematic Middle-earth.
International visitor arrivals data for year ending February 2015 show holiday arrivals into New Zealand are up 7.8% year on year.
For the period January to December 2014, just over 100,000 international visitors said that The Hobbit Trilogy was a factor in influencing their initial interest in New Zealand.
Tourism New Zealand’s Chief Executive Kevin Bowler says that The Lord of the Rings Trilogy and, more recently, The Hobbit Trilogy have given New Zealand a unique opportunity to showcase itself as a visitor destination by leveraging off one of the largest movie franchises in history.
“The Trilogies have put New Zealand and its stunning landscapes centre stage for movie lovers world-wide, and Tourism New Zealand’s work has been to connect the landscapes of Middle-earth with the experiences of a real life New Zealand holiday.
“And while the Trilogies are complete, New Zealand's association as the home of the cinematic Middle-earth will live on. The establishment of Middle-earth tourism experiences – the most famous being Hobbiton Movie Set - ensures the legacy continues.”
A long yet rewarding journey
It has been a long journey since a location scout first came knocking on the Alexander farm door in 1998. Back then, the fertile green paddocks on a quiet back country road were home to the Alexander family, and their grazing livestock - 13,500 sheep and around 400 cattle.
It was on these same green fields that Hobbiton was then created by director Sir Peter Jackson to depict the home of the hobbits for The Lord of the Rings Trilogy.
In December 2002, Russell Alexander was conducting the first tours of the movie set, and which was rebuilt out of permanent materials from 2009 to 2011 for The Hobbit Trilogy.
Since then, tourists from all over the world have been flocking to Hobbiton Movie Set to get their own insider’s view of the epic filming projects, making it the largest permanent film set you can visit in the world.
The two-hour tour shows tourists around 44 hobbit holes dug into the green Waikato hillside, hobbit orchards, the celebrated 'Party Tree' and party field, and finishes with a pint in The Green Dragon™ Inn.
Alexander says,“I can honestly say I never in my wildest dreams thought it would be this big. From where we began in 2002, running a couple of tours in our wee van, to where we are now is very humbling and a true testament to the great team we have here at Hobbiton Movie Set. It doesn’t stop here though, I have made it a personal goal to do something new every year. We have some very exiting additions we will be unveiling in the next 12 months so watch this space.”
Hobbiton Movie Set fact file
Film set area: covers approximately 12 acres
Hobbit houses: 44 Hobbit Holes
Party tree: 70 - 80 metres tall
Construction: 70 set builders
Catering: During production, three meals were served daily to cast and crew, plus snacks on demand for 600+ people
Gardens: 2.3km (and growing) hedges; 30 - 200 plants around each Hobbit house
Ground staff: 7 - 8 gardeners during height of season, 5 in winter
Traditional ales, cider and non-alcoholic ginger beer, all brewed exclusively for Hobbiton, are served from barrels behind the bar at the Green Dragon Inn.
The set is a two-hour drive from Auckland and within easy access of other tourist destinations including Rotorua, Waitomo, Tauranga and the city of Hamilton.
About The Hobbit Trilogy:
Peter Jackson, the Academy Award®-winning director of The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, directed The Hobbit Trilogy – The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, and the final film, The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies. The Trilogy screenplays were written by Fran Walsh & Philippa Boyens & Peter Jackson & Guillermo del Toro. Jackson also produced the films, together with Carolynne Cunningham, Zane Weiner and Fran Walsh. The executive producers are Alan Horn, Toby Emmerich, Ken Kamins and Carolyn Blackwood, with Boyens and Eileen Moran serving as co-producers. All three films in The Hobbit Trilogy are productions of New Line Cinema and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures (MGM), with New Line managing production. Warner Bros. Pictures handled worldwide theatrical distribution, with select international territories as well as all international television distribution handled by MGM.
About The Lord of the Rings Trilogy:
From New Line Cinema, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy is directed by Peter Jackson from screenplays by Fran Walsh & Philippa Boyens & Peter Jackson based on the book by J. R. R. Tolkien. Produced by Barrie M. Osborne, Fran Walsh and Peter Jackson, the Trilogy is co-produced by Rick Porras and Jamie Selkirk. Robert Shaye and Michael Lynne are the executive producers, along with Mark Ordesky.