by Rodney Joyce
WELLINGTON (Reuters) – New Zealand on Tuesday declared itself the home of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth, as it seeks to capitalize on the launch next month of the first movie in the classic fantasy trilogy, Lord of the Rings.
The first movie, The Fellowship of the Ring, is to premiere in London on December 10 after being filmed at 35 New Zealand locations ranging from a gravel quarry in Wellington to picturesque Queenstown in the Southern Alps.
The New Zealand government will spend up to $1.9 million promoting the country as The Lord of the Rings unfolds, Prime Minister Helen Clark said in a statement.
Over the past half century, J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic fantasy about hobbits, trolls, elves and wizards has sold as estimated 100 million copies worldwide.
The second and third movies of the trilogy — voted the book of the 20th century in many millennium polls around the world — are to be rolled out over the next two years.
Clark’s government has appointed a Minister for The Lord of the Rings, Pete Hodgson, to coordinate New Zealand’s promotional efforts, which are aimed at boosting food and beverage exports as well as boosting New Zealand as a location for feature films.
The government is funding maps identifying New Zealand as Home of Middle Earth — the legendary land where Frodo the hobbit sets out to destroy the all-powerful magic ring left him by his Uncle Bilbo.
New Zealand promotions are also planned at the London premiere and the first screenings in New York, Los Angeles and Wellington with New Zealand promotional material to be placed in film industry trade magazines Variety, Hollywood Reporter and Screen International.
New Zealand plans a similar promotion around the running of the Americas Cup yachting regatta in Auckland early next year.