Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Hobbit Staying in New Zealand

A day after New Zealand Prime Minister John Key expressed doubts that the government could meet some of Warner Bros. demands to keep The Hobbit production in the country, he was able to close the deal. The Hollywood Reporter says that after some major concessions, including legislative, both Hobbit films will remain in the country.

The government gave around an additional $25 million in tax incentives to the studio along with a promise to introduce legislation that would more clearly define actors as contract employees and therefore out of the reach of unions. It is unknown if the deal includes a guarantee of passage. In return, besides keeping the films, New Zealand created a "long-term strategic partnership" with the studio to promote the country as a destination for film production and tourism. In addition The Hobbit will get to host the world premiere of one of the two films.

Over all, it sounds like for Warner Bros. simply offset the fall of the value of the American dollar which went from 55 per to 75 per compared to the New Zealand currency when pre-production first started. For New Zealand, this means their film and tourism industry will not only survive but might get a boost, especially once the films come out. It was already estimated the production of the films was going to pump $1.5 billion into the country’s economy. Really the losers in all this will be New Zealand Actors Equity who walked into this as a complete unknown union by even the local citizens and now has become infamous. If the legislation passes and considering their tiny size I doubt the group will exist much longer after that. An irony considering their hard earned seat at the negotiating table, something unlikely to have occurred if they had not used The Hobbit as a pawn.

With this final piece of news, the deck is now almost cleared for The Hobbit to begin production as scheduled in February. There is one final sticking point that I am not sure has been addressed. The blacklist has not been lifted by UK's British Actor Equity and Australia's union. The MEAA not lifting it is mostly irrelevant but a shame for any Australians wanting roles but much of the recently announced lead cast come from the United Kingdom so that blacklist could still present a problem. Hopefully once this new development is digested that will be taken care of on its own.

Congratulations to New Zealand on the hard earned victory and much success to The Hobbit cast and crew.

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