Cost of Hob­bit tril­ogy dou­ble that of Lord of the Rings

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - ENTERTAINMENT - By Nick Perry

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — Mak­ing The Hob­bit movie tril­ogy has cost more than half a bil­lion dol­lars so far, dou­ble the amount spent on The Lord of the Rings tril­ogy.

That fig­ure in­cludes the ma­jor shoots with ac­tors, al­though there will likely be ad­di­tional post-pro­duc­tion costs as the next two movies are com­pleted.

Through March 31, pro­duc­tion had cost 676 mil­lion New Zealand dol­lars, or US$561 mil­lion at cur­rent ex­change rates, ac­cord­ing to fi­nan­cial doc­u­ments filed Fri­day in New Zealand, where the movies are be­ing made.

Dis­trib­u­tor Warner Bros. and di­rec­tor Peter Jack­son may con­sider it money well spent. To date, only the first movie in the lat­est tril­ogy has been re­leased. The Hob­bit: An Un­ex­pected Jour­ney took in just over $1 bil­lion at the box of­fice.

The doc­u­ments, filed online by New Zealand’s Com­pa­nies Of­fice, pro­vide a rare insight into the ex­act costs of a block­buster Hol­ly­wood pro­duc­tion. Of­ten stu­dios re­lease only rough es­ti­mates, if any­thing.

When mak­ing the tril­ogy, Warner Bros. cre­ated a wholly-owned New Zealand com­pany it named 3 Foot 7 Ltd, in ref­er­ence to the diminu­tive stature of the movie’s hob­bits and dwarves. Com­pany doc­u­ments show that New Zealand tax­pay­ers have so far con­trib­uted NZ$98 mil­lion to the tril­ogy through an in­cen­tive scheme de­signed to at­tract big-bud­get movies to the coun­try. Such schemes are com­mon among U.S. states and for­eign coun­tries that com­pete for movies.

The tril­ogy also ap­pears to be one of the most ex­pen­sive movie pro­duc­tions in which two or more movies are shot at the same time.

Both Box Of­fice Mojo and Guin­ness World Records es­ti­mate the most ex­pen­sive sin­gle movie ever made was Pi­rates of the Caribbean: At World’s End with an es­ti­mated $300 mil­lion pro­duc­tion tag. That movie, in con­junc­tion with Pi­rates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest — which was shot at the same time — held the pre­vi­ous record for the most ex­pen­sive to­tal pro­duc­tion, cost­ing an es­ti­mated $450 mil­lion to $525 mil­lion.

Ac­cord­ing to Box Of­fice Mojo, Jack­son’s pre­vi­ous tril­ogy, The Lord of the Rings, cost a to­tal $281 mil­lion to make. The Star Wars pre­quel tril­ogy, mean­while, cost $343 mil­lion, ac­cord­ing to Box Of­fice Mojo, which tracks movie costs and box of­fice re­ceipts.

In mak­ing The Hob­bit, New Zealand di­rec­tor Jack­son chose to shoot both in 3D and at 48 frames per sec­ond, rather than the stan­dard 24, in the hopes of giv­ing au­di­ences greater pic­ture clar­ity and a more im­mer­sive ex­pe­ri­ence. Both tech­niques added sig­nif­i­cant ex­pense. The higher frames per sec­ond re­ceived mixed re­views, as did the movie it­self, which starred Martin Free­man as the ti­tle char­ac­ter.

The tril­ogy is based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s novel of the same name and traces the adventures of hob­bit Bilbo Bag­gins as he at­tempts to help a group of dwarves re­gain their wealth and stature from the dragon Smaug. The Hob­bit is the pre­quel to Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, which was made into a movie tril­ogy that was also di­rected by Jack­son.

The sec­ond movie in the lat­est se­ries, The Hob­bit: The Deso­la­tion of Smaug is due out in De­cem­ber, while the fi­nal movie, The Hob­bit: There and Back Again, is due out in De­cem­ber 2014.

Warner Bros. rep­re­sen­ta­tives this week replied to emails sent by The As­so­ci­ated Press but did not im­me­di­ately pro­vide an­swers to a se­ries of ques­tions about the The Hob­bit bud­get.

WARNER BROS.

Martin Free­man as Bilbo Bag­gins in The Hob­bit: The Deso­la­tion of Smaug.

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