Queenstown 'Hobbit' fans invade capital

The suitably decorated exterior of the Embassy Theatre, Wellington, the venue where thousands of fans from around the country, including Queenstown, will flock for the red carpet premiere of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey on Wednesday night. Photo by Reel Collectibles.
The suitably decorated exterior of the Embassy Theatre, Wellington, the venue where thousands of fans from around the country, including Queenstown, will flock for the red carpet premiere of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey on Wednesday night. Photo by Reel Collectibles.
Hobbit fans from Queenstown have flown to Wellington to cultivate business contacts and be a part of history when The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey has its world premiere tomorrow.

Promotional groups in Queenstown and Middlemarch are also preparing to capitalise by leveraging the locations which doubled for Middle-earth.

Hugh Clark, owner of Queenstown movie memorabilia retailer Reel Collectibles, and partner Sarah Dobson flew to Wellington on Saturday, while Nomad Safaris owner-operators David and Amanda Gatward-Ferguson, of Queenstown, arrived yesterday.

They considered themselves on a working holiday as they attend Hobbit functions, mingle with business and crew contacts and enjoy Middle-earth themed events this week.

Mr Clark and Ms Dobson on Sunday met Weta co-founder and co-director Richard Taylor, and Evangeline Lilly, the former Lost star who plays the new elven character of Tauriel.

Both couples attended the charity premiere party held by fan website TheOneRing.net last night.

A Hobbit inspired artisans' craft market today was on their itineraries, before the couples attended the premiere tomorrow.

"We'll go along and see who we can see and just enjoy the atmosphere," Mr Clark said.

"There's quite a buzz going on in Wellington already. Shops have decorated like hobbit holes, all round Wellington they've got banners flying and the airport has the Gollum sculpture and even the baggage carousel turned into hobbit holes."

Mr Gatward-Ferguson said yesterday they were back beside the red carpet to see fellow fans dressed in costumes and to spot the stars, as they did for The Return of the King premiere almost 10 years ago.

They sourced new Hobbit merchandise to retail in Queenstown and hoped to adapt their Lord of the Rings 4WD scenic tours to encompass The Hobbit locations, once they studied An Unexpected Journey.

Paradise, near Queenstown, and Middlemarch, near Dunedin, were used as locations for The Hobbit trilogy last year.

Destination Queenstown is promoting the film in the short-term with a three-day celebration of all things Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, as well as a Rings video blog through its social media and online channels.

Middlemarch Promotions Group chairwoman Lynnore Templeton said yesterday while it was unlikely any residents would attend the premiere, the group was talking about chartering a coach to take residents to a screening of The Hobbit in Dunedin.

"We have a number of plans [to capitalise on the film], but we're waiting for approval for the terms we can use," Mrs Templeton said.

"I'd hope in the near future we'd have events planned around the filming, but people can see our amazing landscapes for themselves anytime."