Twenty years since Lord of the Rings brought instant fame to New Zealand

It's been 20 years since New Zealand became Middle-earth. 

Sunday marks the day the first The Lord of the Rings film premiered in Wellington, a film that changed the history of New Zealand.

For the past two decades, our precious landscapes have been the home of two of the biggest trilogies of all time and it was the first The Lord of the Rings film, The Fellowship of the Ring, that started it all.  

Twenty years ago it premiered in Wellington, with thousands of fans turning out to get a glimpse of the fresh-faced stars. The cast spent years living and filming here.

There was nowhere else hometown hero director Sir Peter Jackson would have wanted to film it.

Thousands of Kiwis also worked on the film, including Jared Connon.

"I saw what they were doing and I said, I have no idea what you are doing but sign me up because it looks pretty exciting," he says. 

He was the junior location manager, responsible for finding and caring for parts of Middle-earth.

"For me they were a character, they were beyond just a background."

The film, and subsequent ones, not only had a huge effect on the economy but they brought instant fame to New Zealand.

It's what attracted 18 percent of tourists to the country and 33 percent of all visitors have checked out a film location. Well, before COVID put a stop to that.

Stephen Colbert and some of the cast celebrated with a 20-year reunion, of sorts.

It still remains the most successful trilogy of all time.

A legacy that put New Zealand, or should I say Middle-earth, firmly on the map.