We're going back to Middle Earth! Or rather we're going back to being Middle Earth! A Lord of the Rings TV series, budgeted at $1.5 billion, is to be made in New Zealand by Amazon. No one in this country will ever have to have the concept of deja vu explained to them again.
Huzzah! Sorry, I mean — boooo!
I almost forgot to allow for the obligatory, inaugural moaning and kvetching about subsidising billionaires with our film funding tax breaks. And in this case, not just any billionaire, but Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, the one shopping site to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.
Bezos is still the richest person in the world despite having to hand over $52 billion this week to his now ex-wife MacKenzie. That has to hurt and it appears that he's cheering himself up by splashing out on a $1.5 billion toy.
The series will be made using our Large Screen Production Grant, leading to the claims of billionaire subsidising. But writing on werewolf.co.nz some time ago, Gordon Campbell, who has at least bothered to look, calculated that the ROI from the grant is very high. This conclusion lines up with that of an MBIE report. And Minister for Trade and Export Growth David Parker agrees.
In short: the money "we lose" subsidising billionaires is returned to the economy many times over in investments, jobs and all the economic benefits that follow. The benefit to Bezos and others is merely an unfortunate corollary.
"Taxpayer-funded" shows such as Avatar have not only brought money with them, they have also left a legacy of skill and training. You have to look at the big pictures. If the big pictures keep coming, people will stay to use those skills rather than going overseas because there is no work for them here.
We don't know much about this LOTR except that it will be guaranteed to once again have the rest of the world oohing and aahing at how gorgeous we are.
I'm not sure that we were our best selves the last time this happened. We might have got a bit carried away by all the attention. Especially those of us who were airlines.
We've changed a bit in the 20 years since Peter Jackson's films, but they should be able to make the lakes and waterways look clean with CGI.
This LOTR will definitely be different. No word on whether it will go so far as to have strong female characters, but at this stage, anything's possible.
Nor is it clear whether Hobbiton will be part of the story, but if so it would raise the spectre of competing tourist attractions slugging it out: "Still! the original Hobbiton from Peter Jackson's immortal original!! Do not be fooled by imitations!"
Even though the new stories are set 3441 years before the first trilogy, Ian McKellen has already put his hand up to reprise his turn as the 7000-year-old Gandalf.
But pity the casting directors faced with superannuated luvvies dragging themselves out of retirement villages to lobby for parts: "My 75th orc from the left in the Battle of Pelennor Fields was widely praised at the time."
I wouldn't like to predict the quality of what will end up on our screens, but I can guarantee that the events leading up to it will be extremely entertaining.