Point-blank : Playing cricket on Middle Earth

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Wellington, the capital of New Zealand where Sri Lanka thrashed England by nine wickets last Sunday to ensure their place in the 2015 Cricket World Cup quarter-finals is not only famous for its rugby and cricket, but it gained worldwide fame and popularity when it was used as the hub for the movie trilogy ‘The Lord of the Rings’ during its epic 500-day production that used 350 purpose-built sets in more than 150 locations all over the country.

The film trilogy won 17 Oscars (four Oscars for The Fellowship of the Ring, two Oscars for The Two Towers and 11 Oscars for The Return of the King - including Best Film and Best Director awards). The films showcased the skills of the cast and crew. It took two years to film the trilogy and one of the big winners however was New Zealand which is today known as Middle Earth for its Lord of the Rings trilogy. New Zealand born Peter Jackson filmed the entire three films in various locations around New Zealand using the stunning locations and lands that starred as Middle Earth.

What the film trilogy has done for New Zealand as a tourist venue is that it has projected its image to the extent that since 2004, an average 47,000 international visitors each year have visited a film location.

Research completed by the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research has found that the marketing of New Zealand as Middle Earth has had a significant and quantifiable impact on growth in visitor arrivals from Western markets.

The following facts supplied by the ‘International Visitor Survey” makes interesting reading:
+Six percent of visitors to New Zealand (around 120,000 -150,000 people) cite The Lord of the Rings as being one of the main reasons for visiting New Zealand.

+One per cent of visitors said that the Lord of the Rings was their main or only reason for visiting.
+This one per cent related to approximately NZ$32.8m in spending
+63,200 visitors participated in a Lord of the Rings activity while in New Zealand.
+9,988 international tourists did a group tour for Lord of the Rings fans
+20,251 international tourists did an organised tour that included a Lord of the Rings site
+29,233 international tourists visited a Lord of the Rings site independently
The most accessible filming location in Wellington is Mount Victoria, which is within walking distance of the central city. The forested areas of the mountain were used to depict Hobbiton Woods, where the hobbits hid from the black riders. Other Wellington locations include the Hutt River between Moonshine and Totara Park, which played the part of the River Anduin; and Harcourt Park, which was transformed into the Gardens of Isengard.

Wellington’s Kaitoke Regional Park became Rivendell, where Frodo recovered from the knife attack.

Ever since Wellington’s Westpac Stadium was built in 1999, the Basin Reserve which was the universally recognised venue for international cricket since 1930 has been demoted to hosting only Test matches. Compared to the Basin Reserve that can hold only 11,600 people, Westpac Stadium has a capacity for 33,500 spectators. Thus the greater support for Westpac Stadium to hosts more ODIs and T20Is.

As the ground is also the home venue during the winter for Super 12 rugby’s Hurricanes and the National Provincial Championship’s Wellington Lions, drop-in pitches are used whenever cricket matches are played there. It was on such type of pitch that England lost both their 2015 World Cup matches played at this venue - to New Zealand and to Sri Lanka. Whereas the New Zealand-England game produced only 248 runs off 45.4 overs -  the one between Sri Lanka and England turned out to be belter of a pitch with 621 runs being scored inclusive of three centuries.

Wellington is also known as the world’s windiest capital. The highest gust of wind ever recorded is 248km/h. The average wind speed at Wellington airport is 29km/h compared to 18km/h in Chicago. On an average the city sees 173 days above 32 knots and 22 days over 40 knots. When you arrive in Wellington and experience the wind you are reminded of Bob Dylan’s famous hit song “Blowing in the Wind.”

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