Lec­ture to look at Hob­biton boost

Matamata Chronicle - - News -

When vis­i­tor num­bers at the Mata­mata i-Site to­talled 367,000 in 2004, the town knew it had a ma­jor tourism boom on its hands. Mata­mata, known pre­vi­ously for its thor­ough­bred breed­ing in­dus­try, Wairere Falls and the Firth Tower Mu­seum, found it­self to be an in­ter­na­tional des­ti­na­tion thanks to ‘‘a few holes in the side of a hill’’.

Mata­mata Pub­lic Re­la­tions As­so­ci­a­tion man­ager Sue Whit­ing said it took a while for the town to get used to the idea of be­ing pop­u­lar, but she’s seen Mata­mata grow and learn to wear its Hob­biton label with pride, all thanks to Lord of the Rings and Hob­bit movies be­ing par­tially filmed on Alexan­der’s farm just town.

Ms Whit­ing is one of three speak­ers at the first of the Univer­sity of Waikato’s Win­ter Lec­ture Se­ries, tak­ing place tonight at the Gal­lagher Acad­emy of Per­form­ing Arts on cam­pus.

Ms Whit­ing will tell the story of how a town learned to em­brace change and the chal­lenges and ben­e­fits the in­flux of vis­i­tors has brought to the town.

‘‘I was there at the start, when we used to only get a hand­ful of vis­i­tors stop­ping at our town each day, but in the last 10 years, nearly two mil­lion peo­ple have been to Mata­mata be­cause of the film and that’s pos­si­bly in­jected $3 mil­lion into Mata­mata.’’

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Hamil­ton & Waikato Tourism chief ex­ec­u­tive Kiri Goul­ter will also speak at the lec­ture, telling the big­ger story of the wider im­pacts the films have brought and how tourism op­er­a­tors might cap­i­talise on the in­crease in vis­i­tor num­bers.

For the film buffs, Dr Carolyn Michelle from the Au­di­ence Re­search Unit at the Univer­sity of Waikato will talk about her sur­vey work re­lat­ing to the movies.

The re­sponses were many and var­ied she says, ‘‘from the Lord of the Rings fans who couldn’t wait to see the new film to the JRR Tolkien purists who thought he’d be turn­ing in his grave’’.

Dr Michelle, with col­leagues from the Univer­sity of Waikato’s Screen and Me­dia Stud­ies pro­gramme and col­lab­o­ra­tors in Canada, the United States, Bel­gium, the Nether­lands and Den­mark wanted to find out if peo­ple’s hopes were ful­filled and con­firmed af­ter see­ing the movie, and how dis­cus­sion, de­bate, mar­ket­ing and pro­mo­tion of a film shaped sub­se­quent re­sponses to it.

The Hob­bit: An Un­ex­pected Re­sult: Mata­mata Pub­lic Re­la­tions As­so­ci­a­tion man­ager Sue Whit­ing is one of the speak­ers at the Univer­sity of Waikato’s Win­ter Lec­ture Se­ries.

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