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Fire damages N.Z. 'Lord of the Rings' studio

Portsmouth Miniature Studio also used for 'King Kong'

SYDNEY -- A studio and effects business that was to be used for filming on "The Hobbit" was damaged by a major fire in Wellington, New Zealand, Friday.

Portsmouth Miniatures Studio, which was used by Weta Workshop to film the miniatures scenes in the "Lord Of The Rings" trilogy and "King Kong" caught fire at 3.10 p.m. local time, according to NZ press reports.

A spokeswoman for the studio told The Hollywood Reporter that no-one was hurt in the fire and there were no films currently in production at the studios.

She said further information about the extent of the damage and the cause of the blaze, which took fire crews three hours to put out, would be released once fire officers had completed an investigation. Part of the building is reportedly extensively damaged.

She confirmed that Portsmouth is "affiliated" with NZ digital effects group, Weta but is not directly owned by Weta. However other reports say it is owned by "Rings" and "The Hobbit" producer and director, Peter Jackson.

Matthew Dravitzki, spokesman for Jackson's Wingnut Films production company, told NZPA that the studio was to have been used for filming "The Hobbit".

"It would have been used in the shooting of 'The Hobbit,' yes".

"It's a specialist miniatures shooting facility, it's one of the only ones in the world, and I can't comment at this point as to whether (the damage) will cause a problem," Dravitzki said. "I probably won't know that until after the weekend."

He said that items of "commercial sensitivity" were also stored there.

NZ press said the land and building are worth NZ$3.2 million ($2.2 million).

The fire is another possible set back for "The Hobbit" which is still to be formally greenlit by studios, New Line, Warner Bros. and MGM.

They are backing Jackson in a dispute raised this week by union NZ Actors Equity, over terms and conditions for NZ actors to be employed on "The Hobbit".

Jackson replaced Guillermo Del Toro as director on the film in May when del Toro left over continued delays.