Country braces for the effects-heavy 'Hobbit'

Big-budget productions have eased in New Zealand in the past 12 months, though the biz is bracing for New Line’s “The Hobbit” in 2010. The government has thrown its weight behind the effects industry with a NZ$5.8 million ($4.3 million) investment in Weta Digital that should further enhance the country’s reputation for post. Peter Jackson is heading up a review of the New Zealand Film Commission and its operations. NZ’s Large Budget Screen Production (LBSP) grant is still in place. Program reps a 15% rebate on a qualifying expenditure of NZ$15 million ($11 million).

Top facilities: Auckland’s Henderson Valley Studios recently added a largesoundstage to its operations, as well as a boost in office space; Christchurch’s Whitebait Studios continues to be a big TV draw.

Key contacts: Judith McCann recently stepped down as head of Film New Zealand, with Sue Thompson acting as the org’s new head. Thompson is a former deputy chair of the org and well-placed to advise on international productions heading to NZ.

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