New studios, services look to lure o'seas productions

AUCKLAND — In 2003, Kong landed in New Zealand, boosting the country’s rep in the film world.

This Kong has almost nothing to do with giant apes but everything to do with a world-class $7┬ámillion soundstage backed by “King Kong” helmer Peter Jackson and partners at Camperdown Studio’s Stone Street complex in Wellington.

“We christened the studio Kong,” says Jamie Selkirk, a partner at the Stone Street complex with Jackson and Richard Taylor of f/x outfit Weta Workshop.

Most recently, Kong has been used for the Walden Media production “The Waterhorse,” produced by Barrie Osborne.

Meanwhile, 400 miles to the north, locations office Film Auckland has allocated government coin to open a 21,500-square-foot studio at the Henderson Valley Studios complex. This second soundstage is expected to be complete by June.

Around 70% of the film and television production in New Zealand is near the Henderson Valley complex on the outskirts of the city. Says Peter Rive, chairman of locations office Film Auckland: “Producers loved working New Zealand, but it became clear we were losing films because there was no soundstage.

It was why Spike Jonze’s “Where the Wild Things Are” opted out of New Zealand to film in Melbourne, Australia, Rive says.

Until now, Henderson Valley Studios has relied on converted warehouse space.

The new $4.2 million soundproofed studio is to start construction at the end of 2006 and is to be completed by June.

Meanwhile, the locations office in New Zealand’s sparsely populated South Island, Film South, says two groups of businesspeople are planning their own soundstages to cater to film and commercial crews working in the scenic Queenstown area.

The film and TV biz is also abuzz about plans to develop the Kelly Park site at Silverdale, north of Auckland. Its existing “big shed” facilities were used by Walden Media to film about a quarter of “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.”

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