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Peter Jackson's Own Hollywood in New Zealand

Middle Earth Down Under

His filmmaking paradise has massively impacted the nation's economy.

John Key, the prime minister of New Zealand, already has circled Nov. 28 on his calendar. That's when Peter Jackson's The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey will have its world premiere in Wellington. The city plans to spend $900,000 on festivities surrounding the occasion, but the whole country has reason to applaud Jackson, who has put New Zealand on the map as a production center with a growing infrastructure. James Cameron is among the filmmakers who have gone to Weta Digital for extensive visual effects work on big films, and the government estimated Avatar contributed $218 million to the economy. That's primarily just for effects, and Key says "it's very hard to know" what the full economic impact of the Hobbit movies will be, "but … there are obviously hundreds of millions of dollars being spent in New Zealand." Perhaps more: When Jackson flirted with taking The Hobbit to Europe to thwart labor organizers in New Zealand, the country's largest bank, ANZ-National, estimated that the loss to the economy would be as high as $1.5 billion. Add in the hundreds of people employed at Jackson's facilities in suburban Miramar, and it's clear his footprint on New Zealand is very large indeed.

Stone Street Studios: This former paint factory was converted into studios while The Lord of the Rings was in preproduction. Owned by Jackson and collaborators Richard Taylor and Jamie Selkirk, it includes the 24,500-square-foot K Stage, which was built for King Kong.

Portsmouth HIre: Nestled in a (large) corner of the Stone Street lot, Portsmouth is a lighting, camera and grip-equipment rental company owned by Jackson and his wife, Fran Walsh.

Weta Workshop: Jackson owns this facility along with Taylor and Selkirk. The workshop designs and manufactures prosthetics, weapons and armor as well as public art works. Also housed here: Weta Ltd., which creates high-end collectibles.

Park Road Post: Jackson and Walsh own this postproduction facility, which includes a full suite of sound services. Its team of editors and mixers won Academy Awards for The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King as well as King Kong.

Weta Digital: Jackson, Walsh and effects supervisor Joe Letteri own Weta Digital. It was founded in 1993 to work on Heavenly Creatures and has claimed five Oscars for its work on the Lord of the Rings trilogy, King Kong and Avatar.