The controversial Wellywood sign has been compared to blasphemy by the New York Times.

The proposed sign stirred up local debate this week after Wellington Airport said it would forge ahead with plans to erect the sign on a hillside by the airport.

That provoked a drive-by protest at the airport, a 25,000-strong Facebook group against the sign, and a council-backed letter from Wellington mayor Celia Wade-Brown urging the airport to reconsider.

And now the controversy has gone offshore, with the New York Times saying Hollywood insiders had been riled by the plans.

A story from the newspaper's Los Angeles bureau began: "Not much is sacred in Hollywood. Classics are remade; final cuts are subjected to focus groups and re-edited.

"But the Hollywood sign? That is sacrosanct."

The article cited threatened legal action from the owners of the Hollywood sign, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce.

The Los Angeles Times also pitched in, writing: "Hollywood is not amused."

Chamber officials said they thought the plan had fizzled last year when they didn't hear back from the airport over the rights issue.

"We are not without a sense of humour, nor without legal rights," the chamber said.

Airport chief executive Steve Fitzgerald yesterday said they were concerned by some of the comments being made in the media and on social media sites about the sign.

"The airport is monitoring opinion closely on this matter and will continue to do so," he said.

Disdain for the controversial sign came from the highest level, with Prime Minister John Key saying he did not like it.

A UMR Research poll of 300 Wellington residents found 64 per cent of those who were aware of the debate opposed the sign's erection, compared to 22 per cent who supported it.

- NZPA