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, the most expensive movie ever made, was propped up by a $45 million subsidy from Kiwi taxpayers.

James Cameron's film has already grossed more than $2 billion in global box office receipts but none of its profits will be returned as a dividend to New Zealand.

The New Zealand Government does get "special thanks", however - at the end of six minutes of rolling credits. The $307m movie qualified for the grant because much of the digital production work was done in Wellington.

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Weta Digital, the computer special effects arm of Peter Jackson's studio empire, received the lion's share of the American-financed film's budget.

It employed almost 900 people for four years to work specifically on the project. Some of those were Kiwis; others were flown in from Europe or the United States.

Asked in December why New Zealand was chosen as the film's production location, Avatar producer Jon Landau said: "To be honest, we went for the tax credit."

Economic Development Minister Gerry Brownlee said the grant was a worthwhile investment and would have flow-on effects for the entire economy: "A good chunk of that $307m was spent on salaries here."

Industry sources estimated top staff at Weta Digital could have earned up to $11,000 a week for their work on Avatar.

Green Party co-leader Russel Norman said he loved the movie but the $45 million hand-out was "excessive". The subsidy should be a capped, he said.