The sheer impact of the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies upon New Zealand is now becoming a serious matter for discussion. In an interview with Scoop News, Ian Brodie, former Communications Manager for Hobbiton Movie Set & Farm Tours said:
“Blockbuster movies like The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit have changed how people think about New Zealand”
Your reaction to that might be, ‘well yeah, obvious’ but when you consider sporting events like the Rugby World Cup and The Americas Cup in sailing, both of which attract a huge fanatical following, have had nothing like the same impact upon the country over the years, the movies now begin to look something like a game-changer for the cultural life of a nation. As Mr Brodie adds:
“We are now known as a film location, and as a place New Zealand is now stamped as ‘Middle Earth’.”
The desire to revisit a place that held some vivid emotion for us, be it a house full of childhood memories, a place where we made a momentous decision, or merely one associated with a great feature film, (and that process can be as much about exorcising bad memories as reliving the good), is a natural human desire. You visit the place and you relive the emotions. New Zealand has become forever the landscape we imagine when we recall our favourite moments from the stories.
The impact for what used to be considered quite a sleepy corner of the world due to its remoteness has been quite dramatic. The Matamata i-SITE, which is one of the standard places you now visit to find out how to get onto the Hobbiton movie set, (look under the Things to do menu item), has for example increased its hit rate sixfold over recent years, raising it to 300,000 per year. Elsewhere, if you have been keeping up with the story, there is very real political impact nationally by way of The Ombudsman ordering the Government to release documents about the deal it struck to ensure The Hobbit movies were made in New Zealand.
Mr Brodie, a recipient of the New Zealand Order of Merit for his services to tourism and writing, will lecture the University of Waikato on 21 Feb on the very subject of The Hobbit movie’s impact upon tourism. He is being hosted by the Waikato branch of the New Zealand Geographical Society.