Hobbit plane touches down ahead of premiere

By Lucy Bennett

As the stars arrived for the red carpet premiere of the second in The Hobbit trilogy - The Desolation of Smaug - Kiwis in Los Angeles who didn't make it to the Dolby theatre gathered at the Beverley Hilton for a party of their own.

The Hilton is the centre for all things Hobbit in LA this week, and is the site of the Book of New Zealand, a giant installation featuring four scenes from the latest release.

Invited guests wandered through four scenic parts of New Zealand where filming took place; the sets recreated with props built in LA or flown from New Zealand especially for the event.

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The Book of New Zealand, a Tourism New Zealand concept created in conjunction with Warner Bros, is intended to showcase New Zealand to foreign media to make the most of the publicity generated by the latest Hobbit premiere.

Air New Zealand came to the party, creating a giant Smaug the dragon on the sides of one of its 777-300s. The aircraft arrived in LA in time for the premiere.

Associate Tourism Minister Chris Tremain said New Zealand had to be good at exploiting its short time in the sun through the film's premiere for a long-term gain in tourism because the country was small and a long way from the rest of the world.

"If you don't, you just don't get noticed in this world. There's so much media out there, there's so many people trying to get a piece of a person's attention that unless you do step outside the box, you're not going to get noticed. We've got some fantastic product to be good with.

"I think we're fantastic at leveraging events. You only have to look at a couple of ideas that have happened today. I think Air New Zealand is one of the first airlines to not only partner with the movie but to get key images on to the plane, to take that a whole further step, airline stewards dress up, they then appear in the ads ... it gets massive buy-in from the staff."

New Zealand's Ambassador to the Washington, Mike Moore, said it was "marketing magic".

"No one has ever done it like this in the history of tourism, of airlines or cinema so it just works ... it works at every level."

New Zealanders were good at recognising an opportunity, he said.

"Everyone feels they've got a part of it. That's what's happening here and Kiwis are rightfully proud of it.

"(Sir Peter) Jackson is a remarkable individual. Very few people have done for New Zealand what he's done."

Earlier today, Sir Peter, the film's director, appeared on the red carpet as Air New Zealand's Smaug-liveried jet was towed across the tarmac at LAX following its flight from Auckland.

Sir Peter, two of the film's stars Dean O'Gorman and Aidan Turner, Mr Tremain and Air New Zealand chief executive Christopher Luxon were among those there to meet the plane. Sir Peter said having the dragon on the plane was "really cool".

"There are some things in movies that are, you know, mechanical, and they're very cold and calculated, but something like this is simply cool. There's no other way to describe it. I mean, a dragon on a plane, fantastic," he said.

Sir Peter said it was great to have the support of Air New Zealand, the Government and the people of New Zealand.

"We're here to celebrate the arrival on US soil of Smaug the dragon, who now is able to fly himself across the Pacific, with the help of an Air New Zealand jet," he said.

"It's just great that the airline and the movie and Warner Brothers and everybody are working together to promote the country, Absolutely, because the country made The Hobbit the film it was. It couldn't have made it without the support of everybody in the country."

- APNZ

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