Fenced between the famous, the soon-to-be-famous and the chanting, screaming fans who lined Courtenay Place at the world premiere of the first Hobbit trilogy movie, it was hard not to feel a creeping deja vu.

Yes, we've been here before. For a few years there a decade ago, The Lord of the Rings premiere became the Wellington answer to the Santa parade - complete with a jolly bearded fellow at the end getting the biggest cheer.

Last night, there wasn't the mass of people that swamped the inner city for the premiere of The Return of the King. And there were some dissenting voices. A few protesters for the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) - one dressed as a Ringwraith, which really must have taken some work - took up a position across from the media lenses.

Their signs said things like "The Hobbit: Unexpected Cruelty". But they were blocked by stern-faced women in Absolutely Positively Wellington T-shirts hoisting movie posters aloft. It was a contest of cardboard-wielding endurance.


Across the other side, a media of many accents pleaded with minders for soundbites as the great and good headed down the 600m red carpet in order of ascending fabulousness.

Cate Blanchett floated on past like the elegant hood ornament on a very expensive car; Andy Serkis ran up and down the barriers in a seeming attempt at the world record at mass high fives; head dwarf Richard Armitage delivered his truly tall handsomeness to any camera that would have him; Peter Jackson worked the barriers, spending more time on autographs than soundbites.

The likes of his fellow directors James Cameron and Andrew Adamson went largely unnoticed. The leading folk from the two Wetas - workshop and digital - at times got stopped for the signatures too.

Yes, we have been here before. But there's something energising about standing this close to the crackling energy of pure happy fandom. Even if some did mistake - "Billy! Billy!" - production designer Dan Hennah for Billy Connolly (who pops up a little further into the trilogy).

No, it wasn't The Return of the King premiere all over again, but it was still a cracking start to another big chapter in New Zealand film history.