May 22, 2017

New Zealand PM makes last-ditch effort to retain “The Hobbit”

By Sean O’Connell After years of inactivity, a flurry of last-minute wheelings and dealings has ensured that the “Hobbit” story changes by the hour.

Shortly after Peter Jackson revealed that Warner Bros. was heading to New Zealand to decide if it was economically feasible to remain in the country to film – or if the studio would be better served moving its act off-shore – word breaks that Prime Minister John Key is stepping in to do whatever he can to keep “The Hobbit” in town.

“He and members of his government want to meet with Warner executives here to discuss what can be done to make sure New Zealand doesn’t lose the blockbuster,” the Wall Street Journal reports, adding that New Line spokeswoman Candice McDonough declined to comment on whether or not production executives would meet with Key.

Losing “The Hobbit” certainly would have an immediate impact on New Zealand’s economy, as film productions contribute to the local job market and pump dollars into countless local resources.

But the damage could also be long-term, as the labor unrest revealed by the “Hobbit” negotiations could go a long way to reversing any progress made by the New Zealand film industry to lure productions to the country.

“When you lose these sorts of projects you don’t just lose the direct dollar that was going to be spent here,” said Cameron Bagrie, chief economist at ANZ National Bank.

Meanwhile, in a bit of wishful thinking, the London papers are reporting that “Hobbit” could head to the UK is New Zealand manages to chase the production away.
Jackson promised a decision would be reached soon. Stay tuned for more as the story develops.

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About Sean O'Connell

Sean O'Connell is a nationally recognized film critic. His reviews have been published in print ('The Washington Post,' 'USA Today') and online (AMC, MSN's Citysearch) since 1996. He's a weekly contributor to several national radio programs. He is a longstanding member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS), and the Southeastern Film Critics View all articles by Sean O'Connell Association (SEFCA).

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