Scenes for Sir Peter Jackson's film, The Hobbit, have been
shot near Middlemarch. Photo by Stephen Jaquiery.
Middlemarch (pop. 432) is getting a global profile via
its unexpected journey on to big screens.
Locals are confident the Strath Taieri's relatively
little-known scenic charm is about to be exposed to a massive
international audience in the much-anticipated The
A film unit was in the area for two weeks last year and it is
hoped scenes from the area will feature as a backdrop to the
journey of Bilbo Baggins and fellow Middle-earth creatures.
Shots of the area and references to it by director Sir Peter
Jackson are included in several of the film's production
Sir Peter describes the skies in the area as "incredible ...
Hills around Middlemarch feature in a scene in a trailer for
The Hobbit films, released last week.
While Tourism Dunedin would wait to see the extent to which
the area figured in the final edit of the films, Middlemarch
did not want to miss any opportunity to take advantage of
what they hoped would be one long Hobbit-themed party,
Middlemarch Promotions Group chairwoman Lynnore Templeton
The mere fact filming was done in the area was something the
group could work with, she said.
"We need to capitalise on that."
Being associated with the films would bring "huge" advantages
for Middlemarch, the Otago Central Rail Trail and the wider
Dunedin area, in terms of visitors to the area and associated
activities, she said.
The Strath Taieri filming was done on private property, but
the same distinctive hills were visible from the road, she
The group would work on making the most of the films, but the
hardest thing so far was to get funding to do anything
substantial, she said.
"We are just a few people in a small place."
The group planned to hold a "Hobbit Day" in Middlemarch about
the time of the launch of the first film The Hobbit - An
Unexpected Journey, which premieres in Wellington in late
Plays on the similarity between the name Middlemarch and the
setting for the films - Middle-earth - would "absolutely" be
part of any plans.
Everybody in Middlemarch was very excited about the movies,
Mrs Templeton said, and the town felt it had a personal link.
"We all had people stay with us when they were filming. It
was really nice, actually. The whole town really came alive
for two weeks."
Dunedin City Council Mosgiel Taieri ward representative Cr
Kate Wilson, of Middlemarch, said she was keen to see the
area benefit from its links to the films.
"Not to be mean to us, but our scenery is probably not some
of the more iconic in New Zealand.
"However, it is stunning and now everyone will know it, too."
Tourism New Zealand has said it anticipated any region or
business with a connection to the locations of The
Hobbit film trilogy was likely to notice an increase in
visitors seeking a Middle-earth experience.
Tourism Dunedin chief executive Hamish Saxton said it would
initially take advantage of Tourism New Zealand's investment
in promoting New Zealand as Middle-earth, and the predicted
increase in visitor numbers to New Zealand following the
release of the films.
Initially, it was likely Dunedin would host visiting media
and hopefully benefit from information produced by Tourism NZ
on national journeys, which would include Otago.
"It is very difficult to understand or second-guess what the
impact will be until we see the movies. Therefore, in the
meantime, the very best we can do is highlight and promote
the broader South Island to travellers."
Global interest in the films was fantastic for the whole
country - and represented marketing and promotion a local
marketing budget could not buy, he said.