Peter Jackson screened the first movie in his upcoming cinematic trilogy of “The Hobbit” in New Zealand on Wednesday, offering his home country an early glimpse of the epic.
Tens of thousands of fans showed up at the premiere, which included a 1,600-foot red carpet and a massive effigy of Gandalf, the wizard portrayed by Ian McKellen.
McKellen and his fellow stars, such as Martin Freeman and Elijah Wood, shot the film in New Zealand thanks to activity by the New Zealand government, which changed laws and offered incentives to keep the project there. The New York Times recently detailed New Zealand’s interest in remaining a hub for Hollywood productions.
Initial reactions were strong, and fellow filmmaker Bryan Singer tweeted that it is "amazing and involving."
After arriving in Wellington for the premiere, Freeman and his co-stars were subject to both a mob of fans and a Maori greeting (left).
While to most Americans this may look like Eskimo kissing – bring those noses together! – it is also a traditional greeting for New Zealand.
The only blight on the proceedings was the presence of animal-rights advocates, protesting the film because of reports that animals were abused on set.
Nothing a little Eskimo kissing cannot solve, right?
Cue animal protests.