It may have been declared a "true Christmas disaster" for its massive global flop at the 2018 December box office, but Sir Peter Jackson's Mortal Engines proved big business for the local economy.
With a budget estimated between $152 million and $229m, plus tens of millions in marketing costs, the Universal Studios project was estimated by Variety to have suffered losses of more than $150m.
But direct spending relating to its production in New Zealand could be worth up to $209m, according to the New Zealand Film Commission (NZFC).
Filmed in Wellington, the film received $24.5 million in Screen Production Grants (SPG) through the NZFC, with a final grant still to come that could push its subsidies to near $50m.
The SPG attracts international films to be made in New Zealand with payments of up to 25c for every dollar spend in-country.
The NZFC told the Herald the $209m was spent according to an independent audit carried out on behalf of the makers of Mortal Engines.
Vhari McWha, director of research group Sapere, warned that didn't mean $209m was the exact amount pumped into the local economy.
"That number is literally what they have spent on the production in New Zealand. So it's a factual measure," McWha said.
In 2018 a Sapere report concluded the film industry was now reliant on subsidies and judged it unclear if the SPG was delivering the taxpayer value for money.
"What we tried to do was measure the value of income that was retained in New Zealand and that's a smaller number," McWha said.
"In our evaluation we found, on average for an international production like this, it was about $2.40 [spend in the NZ economy] per dollar of grant. So you were definitely getting value."
Billie Lusk, who runs Wellington-based Billionaires Catering, said Mortal Engines was one of her business' largest contracts allowing them to employ an extra 15 full-time contract staff for four to five months last year, on top of her core staff.
"It's quite consuming, when you're on a movie you're on a movie, I don't moonlight. We just started working on Avatar," Lusk said.
Mortal Engines also proved good business for Wellington-based Morning Star Productions, who were contracted as a production designer.
Director Dan Hennah said his company's contract was "certainly" between $10m and $20m and employed around 400 people for more than four months.
"When I budget a set, I estimate 60 per cent labour, 40 per cent materials. So, that goes to local suppliers, and materials in the Wellington region," he said.
"[The feature film industry worldwide] is a competitive industry. As far as New Zealand is concerned if they can attract $100m productions, that money gets spent in New Zealand, everyone gets paid in New Zealand, and very little of it leaves the country."
SPG spending on international film productions nearly tripled in the past three years - rising from $58.6m in 2016, to $149.3m last year according to figures supplied by the NZFC.
Officials from both the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and Treasury suggested exploring a cap on annual SPG spending following the 2018 Sapere report to manage these ballooning costs.
However, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern rejected the proposal at the time - a controversial decision due to her meeting with director Jackson weeks earlier.
"I have been a consistent and long-term advocate of the [SPG]," Ardern said.
"I have seen the jobs it helps to create, the creative opportunities it supports and the pride it brings to New Zealand when we see our country, actors and labour on the big screen."
• $3m on 5000 room nights in Wellington hotels
• $1m on hire vehicles for cast and crew
• $2m in set decorating purchases
• Over $1.16m on materials, at least 90 per cent of which was spent in NZ
• The costume department used more than 300 local vendors. Around $50,000 spent with several individual vendors - especially in the purchasing of leather
• About $90,000 was spent on fruit and vegetables
• $16,000 of milk was required to make coffee for the production which also used 2247kg of coffee