Update: It looks like the union boycott isn't quite lifted. According to THR, an agreement to life the "do not work" order was reached on Sunday but still not broadcast. Making things worse for those hoping to keep the film in New Zealand, New Line issued a statement saying in part, "The actions of these unions have caused us substantial damage and disruption and forced us to consider other filming locations for the first time. Alternative locations are still being considered." That said, New Zealand is going to fight to the bitter end to keep the production in the country but for now, it doesn't look good.
With the unions boycott now officially rescinded against Peter Jackson's "The Hobbit," it appears it may be too little too late to save the highly anticipated, lucrative and expensive production from closing shop in New Zealand and moving elsewhere.
As was noted yesterday, “The damage inflicted on our film industry by [the actors unions] is long since done,” Peter Jackson and screenwriter Fran Walsh told the Dominion Post. According to the article, Jackson and Walsh said the unions’ stance had undermined Warner Bros.’ confidence in the industry “and they are now, quite rightly, very concerned about the security of their $500m investment. Next week Warners are coming down to New Zealand to make arrangements to move the production offshore. It appears we cannot make films in our own country even when substantial financing is available.”
While a number of nations had been vying to bring the production to their shores, reports are now surfacing that London might be the new home of Middle Earth. Fran Walsh has told Radio NZ, "[Warner Bros. has] got a huge studio that 'Harry Potter' have vacated that they own and they say would be perfect for us." That studio is former Rolls Royce factory Leavesden, which features 50,000 square metres of stage space, a 32-hectare back lot for open-air filming and is fully 3D ready. Leavesden is no stranger to big budget productions, serving as the home for all the 'Harry Potter' films.
For Warner Bros., this could be a very savvy move. They acquired the studio earlier this year and have plans to make it into somewhat of a tourist spot, offering appointments to see the sets of films such as 'Harry Potter.' You can bet WB are counting the dollars they could bring in once "The Hobbit" has wrapped production in charging people to walk through the Middle Earth they experienced on the big screen. It would be an easy, long-term marketing angle for all the 'Lord Of The Rings' films.
It's another twist in the ongoing saga of "The Hobbit" films, and it remains to be seen if Peter Jackson and co. will really pack up two years' worth of production and ship it to the UK for a planned February start. But it certainly looks like the long goodwill between Jackson, Walsh and New Zealand has been spoiled.