The countdown to the world premiere of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is on — quite literally, thanks to the countdown clock installed on the Embassy Theatre in Wellington, New Zealand, where the film will debut November 28. As the clock ticks down and buzz builds in Wellywood (an apt nickname for the filmmaking mecca and Hobbit shooting location), we have the rundown on how to experience Hobbit mania in the world’s southernmost capital city.
First, you’ll have to get there. Luckily, there’s an “official airline to Middle-earth” (aka Air New Zealand) at your service. (Tip: Pay attention to the safety video for some Hobbit humor.) When you land in Wellington — which will be renamed “The Middle of Middle-earth” during premiere week — you’ll be greeted by a nearly 43-foot suspended sculpture of Gollum in Wellington Airport. This delightfully creepy creature was created by Weta Workshop, the Wellington design studio best known for its work on The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Weta Workshop also sets the scene downtown with a second massive sculpture on the New Zealand Post House; this one depicts 14 of the movie’s characters in silhouette. Besides the art installation, New Zealand Post is commemorating the film’s release with Hobbit stamps and coins. Let the souvenir shopping begin.
A few minutes south, waterfront Waitangi Park will be your Hobbit headquarters in the days leading up to the premiere. Look for free open-air screenings of The Lord of the Rings and a pop-up artisan market featuring artists who worked on the film. On premiere night, Waitangi Park’s screens will broadcast live feeds from the red carpet a few blocks away.
Of course, you may want to watch the film’s director and stars arrive in person; their red-carpet walk down Courtenay Place to the Embassy Theatre will cover nearly a third of a mile. And while the premiere is invitation-only, die-hard fans can mingle with some cast members at a pre-show costume party at Amora Hotel Wellington on November 26.
To truly appreciate the citywide elven excitement, you’ll need a luxurious Wellington hotel in which to relax when you’re not sightseeing. Both the Copthorne Hotel Wellington Oriental Bay and the 10-room boutique Ohtel offer proximity to Waitangi Park and precious harbor views. We’ve also spied premiere-week availability at Amora Hotel Wellington — perfect for ogling those costumed revelers.
When it comes to dining, you’ll be spoiled for sustenance in the capital city thanks to its enviable tip-of-the-island location and proximity to the Wairarapa wine region. Among our can’t-miss restaurants: Logan Brown for its delicate paua (abalone) ravioli and Matterhorn for its new menu of shareable plates. The latter happens to have been a favorite hangout for Hobbit actors, so rest assured it’s not a departure from the theme of your trip.
Photos Courtesy of Christian Houge, Positively Wellington Tourism and Warner Bros. Pictures