A series of rallies have been held in New Zealand to protest against movie bosses' plans to find a new location for upcoming blockbuster "The Hobbit". Director Peter Jackson was due to film the "Lord of the Rings" prequel in the country next year, but producers are currently scouting for new locations after a dispute with local actors' unions.
Production on the movie was thrown into jeopardy when union bosses in New Zealand instigated a boycott of "The Hobbit" after failing to agree work terms for local performers. The ban has since been lifted, but the dispute soured relations with movie bosses who remain determined to move the shoot away from New Zealand.
Now thousands of supporters have taken to the streets in the country to demonstrate against plans to relocate "The Hobbit", with protests taking place in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Hamilton, Queenstown and Matamata. Oscar-winning special effects expert Richard Taylor read a letter from Jackson at the demonstration in Wellington, in which the director voiced his support for filming in New Zealand. The letter read, "This is where Middle Earth was born and this is where it will stay."
Monday, October 25's rallies are said to have been timed to coincide with the arrival of executives from the Warner Bros. movie studio, who will fly into New Zealand on Tuesday for final talks about the film's location. Hundreds of protesters dressed as characters from the film series and many held up banners with the messages, "New Zealand is Middle Earth" and "We Love Hobbits."
Filming on the two-part epic, which will feature British actor Martin Freeman in the lead role of Bilbo Baggins, is due to begin in February.