There can’t be many people around who haven’t seen at least one movie of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, or more recently the Hobbit. But did you know that Wellington – often dubbed Wellywood – is basically the home of these fantastical productions. Director and visionary, Peter Jackson, lives just over the hill in the Wairarapa and has established his Park Road Post Production studio in Mirimar, near Wellington airport. Some of their other facilities nearby include Weta Workshop, Weta Digital and Stone Street Studios. If you fly in through Wellington Airport you can’t miss the enormous Gollum hanging from the ceiling in the main terminal area, grasping out to catch little fish floating above the bar tables.
It is quite possible to wander, or drive, around central Wellington and find yourself in several locations used in filming these great movies. Mt Victoria overlooks the inner city, the harbour, surrounding hills and out to Cook Strait, and was a key location for many scenes. There are tracks leading off to green tunnels in the trees where Frodo and his hobbit friends fled the Shire at the start of their journey. Another spot is easily recognised as the place they hid from the Ring Wraiths who were galloping in pursuit of them, and another that leads through open forest where the hobbits were being chased to the ferry on the river. Other Wellington locations include the Hutt River, Kaitoke Regional Park and nearby Wairarapa.
One very popular attraction is the Weta Cave in Mirimar, just 10 minutes from the CBD This mini-museum shows some of the props and characters created for the movies, as well as a DVD showing production work. It’s an excellent opportunity to see what goes in to great movie-making. The Windows Into WorkShop space is a more in depth look behind the scenes at the same location. The Weta Cave has free entry but there is a charge for the Windows Into Workshop. Weta have also been behind production of movies such as Avatar, King Kong, District 9, Lovely Bones and the Adventures of Tintin.
The Embassy Theatre, on the corner of Kent Terrace and Courtenay Place in the central city, has always been a favourite of Peter Jackson’s and he chose it for the world premier of the Lord of the Rings: Return of the King and of the first Hobbit movie, An Unexpected Journey. Wander in for a coffee and check out the refurbished interior, set in the style of when it was built back in the 1920s.