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Tokyo Welcomes First 'Hobbit' Screening After New Zealand Premiere

Japanese fans, some dressed as elves and hobbits, braved hours in the cold to greet Peter Jackson and the film's stars.

TOKYO - Hordes of Japanese fans, some dressed in character, braved hours in the cold to greet the director and stars of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey as they arrived Saturday for the first screening after the world premiere in Wellington, New Zealand, on Nov 28.

Peter Jackson, Martin Freeman (Bilbo Baggins), Elijah Wood (Frodo Baggins), Richard Armitage (Thorin) and Andy Serkis (Gollum) spent at least 40 minutes pressing the flesh, signing autographs and having their pictures taken with fans, after being interviewed by local media on the red carpet. 

Serkis was the surprise hit with the local crowd, high-pitched shrieks of "Andy" greeting him the length of the red carpet, and his "Konnichi wa" in Gollum's voice from the stage drawing perhaps the biggest cheer of the evening. 

“We had a fantastic premiere the other day in Wellington, which we thought couldn’t be topped, but Tokyo is giving it a very good run for its money,” said Freeman, to cheers from the huge crowd assembled in the Roppongi Hills complex, outside the Toho Cinema, where the film was about to show on multiple screens.

“Tokyo’s enthusiasm really is unparalleled; I love bringing films here, it’s my third time,” added Wood.  

Tourism New Zealand was doing its best to once again leverage the film to attract visitors to the country where it was shot, after its success following the original Lord of the Rings trilogy, showing footage of location scenery on the big outdoor screen erected for the premiere, before the stars arrived.

“I visited New Zealand twice, including once on a Lord of the Rings tour, after watching the first films. I knew more about the locations than the tour guide who took us around,” said Tomoko Katsube, who had lined up for hours to be at the front of the crowds surrounding the red carpet.  

Warner Bros, which is distributing the film in Japan through its local arm, imposed a strict embargo for those attending the premiere, on reviews, or any form of reaction being posted on social media, until next week.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey opens worldwide Dec 14. 

Twitter: @GavinJBlair