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New York Times says NZ govt geared around Hollywood

Out in Coatesville, Kim Dotcom will be rubbing his hands and preparing another conspiracy tweet.

For New Zealand has made the front page of today's New York Times, with an article that suggests our entire apparatus of government is geared around Hollywood.

Two writers from the paper, Michael Cieply and Brooks Barnes, met John Key in his Beehive office, where the PM brandished a Lord of the Rings-style sword gifted by President Barack Obama.

The pair see the moment as symbolic of the fact that:

In New Zealand, the business of running a country goes hand in hand with the business of making movies.

For better or worse, Mr. Key’s government has taken extreme measures that have linked its fortunes to some of Hollywood’s biggest pictures, making this country of 4.4 million people, slightly more than the city of Los Angeles, a grand experiment in the fusion of film and government.

The article goes on to trace the the so-called Hobbit Law changes to keep the trilogy in NZ; the GCSB's illegal spying on Kim Dotcom, tourism promotions around the films and the success of Weta (the latter being the most natural territory for Messrs Cieply and Barnes. The pair are the Times' Hollywood correspondents and the recent co-author's of a four-page Times' travel piece on NZ's "Hobbit trail").

NBR thinks the government can't afford to bend over any further for Hollywood. 

As Rob Hosking recently wrote:

Giving any business or sector special concessions of any kind from any government, especially tax concessions, is bad policy and bad in principle.

All it does is encourage lobbying, favouritism and the kind of poor economic performance – and a soft form of corruption – that bedevilled New Zealand for many years

But if you subscribe to the any-publicity-is-good-publicity-school, or subscribe to the downstream benefits theory, then this is more great Hobbit-inspired exposure for Godzone (the Times has around 45 million unique visitors to its site each month).

And it certainly beats the paper's last piece, inspired by the Prime Minister's tour around Hollywood studios to drum up business. 

That New York Times piece, originally highlighted by @toby_etc, began:

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Comments and questions

I would think in this economic environment we would do anything it takes to keep jobs here. It will be interesting to see what happens after the Hobbit movies in three years time, though.

Not much of a revelation from the New York Times when we have a Hobbit as our PM.

What nonsense. Everyone knows the Chow brothers and Hu Jintao run the NZ government.

Hey muppet, Xi Jinping has succeeded Hu Jintao.

If you can't keep up with current events, stop talking about politics.

He's entitled to comment. In fact, you've failed to see the humour - never mind. The Muppets are no longer, they ceased about 15 years ago. So no more talking about Muppets, therefore?

Isn't Rico a Muppet? Or is he a puedo-puppet?

I think one news story described Rico as a "verbal rapist". Hardly a positive brand association but Air NZ just kept pushing it in everyone's face anyway. Return on investment - NIL.

Interesting point raised. Key was will to do what he could to keep the films in N z because I the downstream benefits.

What other industries should get the same downstream analysis. The train manufacturing in Dunedin being an example often raised by labour followers.

I think this is one area that Key needs to look at in more detail. Govt contracts to NZ firms where possible - taking into account downstream effects, not just price.

John Key gives all his Yankie mates big tax breaks at the cost of NZ tax payers... then he will go back there after this term and collect his kickbacks. Smiling Assassin style wish people could see him for the two faces weasel he is.

Where does the term smiling assassin come from ?

From his time at Merrill Lynch. He apparently earned the nickname for the stye in which it is said he made so many people redundant.

I think it's a bit rich to say that NZ and/ or its Govt. revolves around Hollywood. The film and TV industry in NZ is but a small percentage of our GDP, so the numbers don't back that argument up. Having said that, film and TV is a lucrative business that employs a lot of people, and you have to hustle for it. A lot of countries and states do. Taking the moral high ground may make the entitled left feel all self-important and better about themselves, but it doesn't put food on the table or pay the bills. For a country like NZ that does have a film and TV industry, for the govt. not to support that industry with the appropriate settings would be irresponsible and not acting in the countries best interests.

Having said that, I am concerned that NZ through the tourism industry and Air New Zealand are overdoing 'The Hobbit" and tying the countries identity far too strongly to the movies, (we are so much more than a couple of movies) and its starting to reach the level of an irrational hysteria that is more commonly seen with rugby promotions e.g., the rugby world cup, That didn't make us rich in spite of all the hype - (but did the more level headed and unemotional among us ever think it would?) and these movies won't either.

And there is one big risk that everyone seems to be overlooking here wrt to the Hobbit. This movie might flop. It does happen you know. And where will that leave NZ and Air New Zealand and all the others who have linked themselves so strongly to this franchise? Associated with a lemon, that's where, and what sort of a look will that be for the brand?

Companies that need to tie their brand to someone else's are virtually saying that their own brand has no value on its own - which in Air New Zealand's case may be accurate. Companies that tie their brand to a passing fad risk having their identity defined by what goes out of fashion ... a bit like Trelise Cooper uniforms, planes painted green, then black, and now Hobbit. Just exactly where is Air New Zealand's own brand any more? Years of trying to promote pink shirt as a personality brand were a massive failure. What does constantly repainting planes with other people's brands do for the bottom line especially when the beneficiaries (All Blacks, Weta etc) aren't paying for it?

"Jeff Key"? You would think the Times' journalists would know who they are writing about. Losers.

I'm in Manila this week. Big billboards up for the Hobbit movie coming. Must be the same in many other cities.

It's great exposure and connecting with it makes good sense.

Exactly. I mean we have nothing else going for us... at all. Just look at what 'Slum Dog Millionaire' did for parts of India.

Air New Zealand doesn't fly to Manila

True, Air New Zealand doesn't fly here,but it doesn't mean Philippinos won't consider going to New Zealand for a holiday. Singapore Airlines, Malayisan, quotas...plenty of ways to get here, but none direct.

Then why aren't the Philippinos and Singaporeans scribbling hobbits onto their planes?

Because there's no money in it!!

#6 "And there is one big risk that everyone seems to be overlooking here wrt to the Hobbit. This movie might flop"

I don't how these movies garner so much acclaim; I see a Peter Jackson movie and they are so totally forgettable. I can't remember anything that registers because they are so heavily ladened with CGI special effects. All eye candy and drenched in sentimental maudlin.

High paying movies related jobs - if John Key wasn't doing his absolute upmost to encourage that industry, he shouldn't be in the job. Fortunately the man knows it takes actions rather than talk to achieve things, and he's doing it

Achievement is in the results not the actions. Let's see the numbers.


I didn't get paid much for my 2 seconds of fame in the Hobbit. Was a bit peeved when PJ referred to us as "budget dwarfs " But When your taking instructions from Andy Serkis,and you see the incredible talents and passions that go into making these movies,I think it could leave dairy farming for dead and good on John Key for kicking those union heavies to touch and making it possible.

Americas Cup, RWC, LOTR. The govt makes us believe the downstream benefits justify our investment. What did the first two bring us? A viaduct basin that only drinkers tend to go to, a stadium nobody wants any more. We all bought into the 'loyal' campaign and our world class crew jumped ship to the highest bidder, taking the cup and business with it. We keep getting fed the 'intangible benefits' or 'downstream benefits' lines and yet people still leave these shores in droves for a better lifestyle. So is the benefit John Key is talking about trading skilled workers for Chinese students?

If a movie is made in NZ, 15% of all local expenditure goes straight to the Government in GST. Assuming that doesn't crowd out other spending this is pure cream for the Government, so they can afford to give it back by way of a grant. Then, all the employment, income tax, tourism boost and other economic benefits flow.

In principle, the GST shouldn't have been charged in the first place as a movie is an export. But rather than passing an amendment to correct the GST Act, successive NZ governments have dressed it all up as being a special incentive for movie-makers.

For the sake of NZ and AirNZ let's hope the movie is a success.