Mithrandir, Why the Halfling?

Mithrandir - Gandalf the Grey

Gandalf the Grey

Peter Jackson’s first installment of the Hobbit trilogy brought in $32.9 million over the last weekend of 2012, bringing its domestic total up to $222.7 million and its worldwide gross at $686.7 million. Neither Quentin Tarantino’s Western epic Django nor Tom Hooper’s Les Miserables managed to topple the halfling’s spot at the top of the box office charts. While the journey up will probably end next weekend, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is an undeniable success and has joined the 100 top movies of all time, already claiming a reassuring 56th place. Not a small achievement considering the movie only opened December 16th.

The premiere was held with much fanfare on November 28th in Wellington, New Zealand, when 100,000 fans lined the red carpet where since October a clock on top of the Embassy Theater had been counting down the days and the minutes to the big event. And what an event it was! I know it well, as I was there, equipped with a list of must-see places, a camera, and no VIP ticket to the premiere.

Conveyor belt Wellington Airport

Conveyor belt Wellington Airport

Flying into Wellington set the right tone. I had been treated to an unexpected briefing, as the safety video on board Air New Zealand included elves, dwarfs, and Mithrandir himself. My suitcase emerged from a Hobbit hole and made its way through the shire, a.k.a the conveyor belt; inside the main terminal, a 40-foot sculpture of Gollum greeted me.


Embassy Theater

At my hotel, hundreds of fans were in Hobbit fever as a pre-Hobbit Premiere party organized by fan club was under way and the entire town was in a celebratory mood. Wellington’s Embassy Theater, where the premiere took place, was adorned with a giant sculpture of Gandalf knocking at Bilbo Baggins’ door, and the adventurous Hobbit himself and his 13 dwarfs lined the fifth floor of the New Zealand Post Office building. At Weta Cave I joined a long line of fans to see the free movie telling the story of the famed Workshop and, of course, indulged in a shopping spree.

New Zealand Post Office Building

New Zealand Post Office Building

The day of the premiere, the weatherman in the morning came from the elven community and gave the all clear for a sunny afternoon. A World Premiere Souvenir Edition of The Dominion Post was in front of my door, and Air New Zealand flew a special Hobbit-themed decorated plane low over the cheering crowds. Fans who had been lucky enough to get a spot upfront along the red carpet snapped pictures as stars and VIPs made their way from Reading Cinema to the Embassy Theater.

All too soon, a statuette of Gandalf the Grey, a Weta Cave exclusive, and I had to leave Middle Earth. He did not take the journey home through the airport Hobbit hole but was safely tucked in my hand luggage. The statuette was a gift for my son, who, only a few days after the opening of the movie, graduated from the Film School of Florida State University. He has left Gandalf the Grey in my safekeeping while he is embarking on his very own journey; looking at the wise wizard, his answer to Galadriel’s question (Mithrandir, why the Halfling?) comes to my mind. “…Why Bilbo Baggins? Perhaps it is because I am afraid, and he gives me courage.”

Well done, Mr. Jackson I dig the halfling at 48 frames a second. And while purists may criticize the lack of blur and strobing artifacts, I am a convert.

For more pictures and my report live from Wellington, check out

For behind-the-scenes production videos and other Hobbit news, visit Peter Jackson’s Facebook page and The Hobbit Blog.

Places to visit when in Wellington:

Weta Cave
 to view props and get your fill of collectibles, plus a free behind-the-scenes movie.

Embassy Theatre
 is a historic theatre built in 1926. It was the venue of the world premiere of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King and host of the world premiere of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

Roxy Cinema, a beautifully revamped cinema in Miramar in Art Deco style, is owned by Richard Taylor and Jamie Selkirk.

Mount Victoria is the location of the first day of shooting for The Lord of the Rings. Mount Victoria has fantastic views of Wellington city and harbor.

Non-Hobbit-related must-dos:

Visit the National Museum of NZ – Te Papa.

Ride the historic Wellington Cable Car to the Botanic Garden.

Visit or volunteer for a day at ZEALANDIA: The Karori Sanctuary Experience.