Key to LA for air-kiss fest with movie moguls

Whirlwind visit hosted by Avatar producer-cum-Wairarapa farmland investor James Cameron.

(BusinessDesk) Prime Minister John Key will make a whirlwind visit to Los Angeles at the end of the week for a series of visits with senior US movie industry figures, hosted by Avatar producer-cum-Wairarapa farmland investor James Cameron.

Just as Desperate Housewives star Eva Longoria arrives in New Zealand to launch a TV shopping channel, Mr Key will be jetting out to attend a dinner with the heads of Warner Brothers, Sony Pictures and Paramount, and for meetings with senior executives from the Universal and Walt Disney studios, as well as the Motion Pictures Association of America.

Announcing the trip at his post-Cabinet press conference late yesterday afternoon, Mr Key was at pains to insist he was not about to add new incentives for US movie-makers, but was intending to plug the fact that labour law changes and big budget film rebates were intended for any foreign movie, not just The Hobbit.

"We don't have any money and incentives cost you money. What we do in New Zealand is extremely good. We have to ensure we are on the radar."

Warner Bros was instrumental in pushing a labour law change in 2009 that ensured contractors on film projects could not be treated as employees, which would have triggered additional production costs.

Mr Key says the film industry is worth $3 billion a year, employs 2700 people and has potential to grow.

He hoped "Avatar 2 and 3" would be made in New Zealand, and it was appropriate for the prime minister to open doors where others perhaps could not and to leverage the relationship with Cameron, who has made substantial land purchases in the Wairarapa and proposes to become a New Zealand resident.

Mr Key did not expect the studio heads to raise the Kim Dotcom extradition, despite the motion picture industry being among those to target file-sharing services such as Dotcom's Megaupload as sources of internet piracy of copyrighted material.

He returns to New Zealand on Sunday.

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