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The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey has been out for little more than a month and yet has already pulled in more than $886 million worldwide. While this should be all around great news for film's director Peter Jackson and its distributor Warner Bros., its meteoric rise has inspired a rabblerousing politician to demand about $56 million dollars be refunded to New Zealand, where the movie—as well as its forthcoming sequels—were shot.
Deadline reports the New Zealand government offered Jackson's production company Wingnut Films $56 mil to encourage the director to create as many jobs in the country as possible. In response, Jackson not only employees hordes of actors, but also armies of set builders, engineers, and visual effects artists. It's estimated that The Hobbit trilogy's production created 3,000 jobs in the country not counting the boost it would bring to the economy in the forms of catering, hotel rooms and air travel for its sprawling cast and crew. While the figure of roughly 3,000 jobs is agreed upon by Wingnut Films and NZ Prime Minister John Key, NZ First party leader Winston Peters insists this number was "plucked out of the air."
Talking to the NZ site Stuff, Peters states plainly:
"Now the first movie has grossed more than $1 billion, Warner Brothers should repay the $67 million subsidy the movie moguls sucked from Kiwi taxpayers."
Note, the figures Peters offers are based on the value of the New Zealand dollar. All the same, he attempts to back his demand by further insisting that he has documents that show the 3000 figure is fiction. Then, showing a fundamental ignorance to how the film industry works, he goes on to complain, "How many of [these jobs] will exist once the final film has premiered?"
Outside of full-time employees for Weta and Wingnut? Probably none. However, all the people who worked on the film will have something pretty impressive to add to their resume or reel, and the films themselves could urge other filmmakers to take advantage of New Zealand's incredible natural beauty, which would bring more job opportunities. Something Key does seem to understand, as his reps have released a statement saying, "The Government stands by its commitment to attract and retain the film industry in New Zealand in order to reap these significant economic benefits.”
Though Peters is demanding Warner Bros. pay up—an especially odd move since they were not the producers of the film—his real purpose here seems to be to make the current prime minister, who belongs to the New Zealand National Party, look bad. To sell this point, he ends his tirade about The Hobbit by declaring, " The film industry fat cats deserve millions of dollars in tax breaks because they are on a 'worldwide playing field'…Yet somehow that same logic does not apply to our manufacturing industry."
Warner Bros. offers no comment on this matter.