New Line, WB still mulling ‘Hobbit’ location

Peter Jackson-directed pics to shoot in February

New Line and Warner Bros. confirmed Thursday they are still considering alternative locations for Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit,” despite a boycott order being lifted by unions.

New Line/Warners also disputed it knew as early as last Sunday the boycott was going to be called off by the newly organized New Zealand Actors’ Equity union.

“It was not until last night [Wednesday] that we received confirmation of the retractions from SAG, NZ Equity and AFTRA through press reports,” Warners and New Line said in a brief statement.”We are still awaiting retractions from other guilds.”

Warners and New Line said it has been waiting for almost a month for a lifting of the “improper” do no work orders, but that NZ Equity continued to demand that Warners participate in union negotiations. Studios said such talks would have been illegal, since the New Zealand government does not consider NZ Equity a union.

“We have refused to do so, and will continue to refuse to do so. The actions of these unions have caused us substantial damage and disruption, and forced us to consider other filming locations for the first time,” Warners and New Line said. “Alternative locations are still being considered.”

Jackson is scheduled to start shooting the first film in the two-pic “Hobbit” in February. One location being explored is the U.K., where Warners shot the “Harry Potter” franchise.