Wellington gears up for Hobbit premiere
Wednesday 28 Nov 2012 5:19 a.m.
Bilbo Baggins, played by Martin Freeman
Tens of thousands of people are expected to line Courtenay Place to watch the stars, crew, local celebrities and other guests walk the carpet to watch the first film in the adaptation of JRR Tolkien's novel of hobbits, dwarves and elves.
The city is well decked out for the film. Actors arrived on a specially-painted Air NZ flight, Hobbit statues are everywhere, and retailers are cashing in on the crowds of fans - and media - heading to the nation's capital.
Entertainment begins at 3pm on Courtenay Place, and at 4pm Neil Finn will perform, his playlist including 'Lonely Mountain', a song written for the movie.
Martin Freeman, who plays the star role of Bilbo Baggins, Elijah Wood (Frodo), Andy Serkis (reprising his role as Gollum in Jackson's Oscar-winning trilogy The Lord of the Rings) and Richard Armitage (Thorin Oakenshield) will be there.
They're expected to be joined on the red carpet by Cate Blanchett, who plays Elf Queen Galadriel, Hugo Weaving (Elf Lord Elrond) and Australian Barry Humphries (better known as Dame Edna Everage) who plays the Goblin King.
A notable absentee will be Sir Ian McKellen, who is playing Gandalf the Grey, as he did in The Lord of the Rings.
But his presence will be seen in the shape of a 9.4-metre sculpture towering over the facade of the Embassy Theatre, the main premiere venue for 750 invited guests.
The stars and VIPs start arriving at 4:30pm, and speeches from Sir Peter, Prime Minister John Key and Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown begin at 6:30pm ahead of the 7pm screening at the Reading Cinemas and at the Embassy, which is adorned with a sculpture of Gandalf.
3 News will be streaming the whole event from 4pm.
The films are prequels to the Lord of the Rings trilogy, which earned a fortune for Sir Peter in the decade known as the noughties.
The Hobbit films have not all been smooth sailing, however, with initial delays due to Hollywood studio financial problems.
Controversy over whether the films would be shot in New Zealand resulted in the Government changing employment law and giving an extra subsidy of up to US$15 million per movie.
There will be some sign of discontent at the premiere, with animal rights group PETA promising a protest at alleged cruelty to animals - a claim the filmmakers strongly deny.
But for most of the crowd in Wellington on Wednesday, the real issue will be whether the Jackson magic which made the Rings trilogy an Oscar-winning financial bonanza will be there for The Hobbit.
And thankfully, the weather is forecast to be fine.