Amazon’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ Among Projects Granted COVID-19 Exemption by New Zealand

Netflix’s “Cowboy Bebop” and the next season of “Power Rangers” will also join “Avatar 2” among the films that will shoot

New Zealand’s Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment announced this weekend that five more international film and TV productions, including Amazon’s “Lord of the Rings” adaptation, have been granted exemptions from the country’s COVID-19 travel ban, allowing crew members from outside the country to work there pending COVID testing and a quarantine period.

The MBIE has already granted exemptions to James Cameron’s ongoing production of the “Avatar” sequels and Jane Campion’s drama “Power of the Dog” starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst and Jesse Plemons. Both projects, as well as “Lord of the Rings,” had begun production in New Zealand prior to the pandemic.

Other projects granted exemptions include Netflix’s live-action adaptations of the classic anime “Cowboy Bebop” starring John Cho and the DC Comics series “Sweet Tooth” produced by Robert Downey Jr. The long-running kids’ action series “Power Rangers,” which has filmed in New Zealand since 2010, has also received an exemption for its next season, “Beast Morphers.” Peter Farrelly will film his follow-up to the Oscar-winning “Green Book” in the country with “Greatest Beer Run Ever” with “Viggo Mortensen in the lead role.

MBIE’s immigration policy director Sian Roguski told New Zealand news site Stuff that the five productions will bring 206 crew members and 35 family members to the country over the next six months. In addition, 10 more crew members for “Avatar 2” will join the 31 crew that have already arrived for filming.

Thanks to strict restrictions at the onset of the pandemic, New Zealand was able to nearly eradicate COVID-19 by the end of May. But while many businesses have been able to reopen, the country continues to keep its borders closed to prevent another outbreak. This means the country’s tourism-reliant economy has not been able to avoid the economic downturn that has severely impacted the rest of the world.

By approving the exemptions, the MBIE says that the film productions will add an estimated 3,000 jobs and $400 million to the local economy.

“Our success at managing COVID-19 gives our country an opportunity to become one of the few countries still able to safely produce screen content,” Economic Development Minister Phil Twyford said in Parliament. “And the inquiries and interest we are getting from international production houses tells me that the international film community sees New Zealand as something of a global safe haven.”

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