‘Lord of the Rings’ turns 20: Hobbit, Sauron and Gollum makeover in New Zealand

Friday marked the 20th anniversary of the first feature film of JRR Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit” trilogy that premiered at the Odeon Leicester Square in London on December 10, 2001.

Middle-earth came alive again this week as New Zealand celebrates 20 years since the premiere of the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy with special screenings, costume exhibitions and art displays.

Friday marked the 20th anniversary of the first feature film of JRR Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit” trilogy, which premiered on December 10, 2001 at the Odeon Leicester Square in London, which marked New Zealand’s first feature film. Rolling hills brought instant fame. Meadows and forests, which were the background of the mythical Middle-earth.

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Screenings were planned in cinemas in Auckland and Wellington, including an outdoor screening on Friday at Hobbiton, a sheep and beef farm famous as the “home of the Hobbits”, about 160 km from Auckland.

“This event sold out faster than any we’ve tried,” said Hobbiton general manager Shayne Forrest.

Fans visiting the screenings have been crafting their costumes for nearly 12 months, Forrest said, adding that he expects many to dress up as Hobbits, Dark Lord Sauron, Orcs and Gollums.

“We have a Sauron coming in who has a full armor suit and a full headdress, and he’s not going to fit on our bus,” Forrest said.

New Zealand’s tourism industry has been hurt by border closures and pandemic restrictions over the past 20 months. The Hobbiton received 650,000 tourists each year before the pandemic, but only 90,000 in the past 12 months. It cut its workforce from about 320 to 50 people.

Forrest said this week’s celebrations were an opportunity to bring New Zealand back to the world stage.

Hobbits with hairy legs and pointy ears are set to hit the screens again as Amazon Studios began filming the series “The Lord of the Rings” in New Zealand last year, a TV show widely held to be its biggest ever. become expensive.

But Amazon said the second season of the multimillion-dollar television series will be filmed in the United Kingdom, taking Middle-earth out of New Zealand for the first time.

The series’ success helped attract some of the biggest Hollywood productions to the New Zealand film industry, including James Cameron’s “Avatar” and more recently Jane Campion’s “The Power of the Dog” and Netflix series such as “Sweet Tooth”.

Several productions chose New Zealand last year because of the country’s COVID-19 free status.

But with Delta’s outbreak this year, the industry, which is worth about NZ$3.3 billion and employs about 15,000 New Zealanders, has faced challenges.

“But we have a resilient industry,” said David Strong, CEO of the Film Commission of New Zealand.

“Next year we are opening and very much looking forward to getting international production back,” he said.