Hobbits, Orcs, Ents and maybe even some Na’vi are getting their own museum in New Zealand’s capital city. A long-gestating $90M project backed by private interests led by Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and their longtime collaborator Richard Taylor today won approval from the Wellington City Council.
A combined movie museum and convention center will be built opposite the Te Papa national museum on land that the council has voted to acquire under a 25-year lease. The museum is designed to celebrate the film heritage of Wellington which the council notes has been home to the production of “five of the world’s 12 highest-grossing films of all time.”
Wellington has long been home to Jackson and Taylor’s prolific Weta Workshop and has played host to Jackson’s Hobbit and Lord Of The Rings films as well as James Cameron’s Avatar on which Weta worked. And there’s more Avatar to come. In late 2013, the Kiwi governement signed a memorandum of understanding with Cameron’s Lightstorm Entertainment and Twentieth Century Fox to see the director make each of the next Avatar installments locally. In January this year, Cameron said plans were to have a sequel appear in each year from 2017-2019.
The attraction in Wellington is expected to be a major tourist destination along the lines of the Harry Potter Studios Tour in the UK. The goal is to see 310,000 people visiting the museum by year three, with $25M generated annually once it’s up and running. The aim is for that to happen by the end of 2018, according to local reports.
Speaking to the New Zealand Herald, museum project director George Hickton said, “It will span the award-winning, Hollywood-scale productions the Weta Group of companies has helped bring to the big screen through to the earlier homegrown movies, and will also encompass one of the most valuable collections of Hollywood memorabilia anywhere in the world.” He called the project “very personal” for Jackson and Taylor.
Wellington Deputy Mayor Justin Lester added, “We’ve been talking about the movie museum ever since the Lord Of The Rings took off in the early 2000s, and finally we’re getting some traction.”