The fans gathered this morning for a unique photo opportunity in front of Air New Zealand, the official airline of Middle-earth's Boeing 777-300ER aircraft featuring characters from The Hobbit Trilogy.
Chosen from more than 140,000 entries following a global contest, The Hobbit Fan Fellowship will this week visit a number of locations which appear in The Hobbit Trilogy and meet behind-the-scenes creative talent involved in the films. The trip will culminate at Sir Peter Jackson's private studios in Wellington for an exclusive screening of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, a production of New Line Cinema and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures (MGM).
As well as being a once-in-a-lifetime experience for fans, the trip is also a significant coup for New Zealand's tourism industry, with close to 40 media outlets from 12 countries travelling alongside the group.
The Hobbit Fan Fellowship is a collaboration between Air New Zealand, Tourism New Zealand and Warner Bros. Pictures and its filmmaking partners New Line and MGM.
Air New Zealand Chief Executive Officer Christopher Luxon, who was on hand to greet the fans at Auckland Airport, says the visit is a huge opportunity to showcase destination New Zealand to a substantial global audience.
"These lucky fans have a fantastic itinerary planned, visiting some of New Zealand's most stunning landscapes. The social media coverage generated by these fans and the stories the media group will produce have the potential to be seen by millions of people around the world and we hope this may inspire more people to consider their own visit to Middle-earth," says Mr Luxon.
Tourism New Zealand Chief Executive Kevin Bowler was also at the airport to welcome the fans to Middle-earth, New Zealand.
"There is no doubt that the week that lies ahead for these fans is a once in a lifetime, ultimate trip which will connect the landscapes of Middle-earth with the experiences of New Zealand and bring to life a Middle-earth journey for each and every fan.
"The Hobbit Fan Fellowship will show how the fantasy of Middle-earth can become reality in the form of a New Zealand holiday, with the presence of international media in New Zealand ensuring this story is told to a worldwide audience.
The Hobbit films have had a significant impact on New Zealand's tourism industry. Both Air New Zealand and Tourism New Zealand have successful leveraged their partnerships with the films in recent years through marketing and sales campaigns and have seen visitor numbers grow as a result with more people citing The Hobbit Trilogy as a key factor in their decision to travel to New Zealand.
Also supporting the fans' journey are New Line Cinema, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures and Warner Bros. Pictures, which will handle the worldwide theatrical distribution of The Hobbit: The Battle of The Five Armies later this year, along with MGM in select territories.
The multi-national Fan Fellowship will fly in to Auckland, rated the third most liveable city in the world, and travel on to Rotorua, New Zealand's famous, long-standing tourist destination, where they will be welcomed with a Maori cultural performance and traditional hangi banquet (cooked in an authentic underground oven).
Their next stop will be the Hobbiton Movie Set near Matamata in the Waikato region for a private tour of the picturesque shire which is the big-screen home of Bilbo Baggins.
Fans will be treated to feast fit for any Dwarf before continuing their journey to Queenstown in the South Island the following day.
Queenstown is New Zealand's adventure capital and the scene of countless battle scenes from The Hobbit Trilogy. The Fan Fellowship will not only have the chance to walk in the footsteps of their heroes through Paradise but also visit the site of the Pillar of Kings, home of the Kawerau Bungy and zipline.
The journey will end in Wellington, New Zealand's capital city and Peter Jackson's home town, for the private screening of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. Better known as "Wellywood," Wellington is the home of Peter's filmmaking operations, which has become a must-stop for film fans visiting New Zealand.
Issued by Air New Zealand Public Affairs ph +64 21 747 320
About The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies:
Directed by Peter Jackson, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies features a screenplay by Fran Walsh & Philippa Boyens & Peter Jackson & Guillermo del Toro, based on the novel by J.R.R. Tolkien. Jackson also produced the film, together with Carolynne Cunningham, Zane Weiner and Fran Walsh. The executive producers are Alan Horn, Toby Emmerich, Ken Kamins and Carolyn Blackwood, with Philippa Boyens and Eileen Moran serving as co-producers. Production took place at Jackson's own facilities in Miramar, Wellington, and on location around New Zealand. Post production took place at Park Road Post Production in Wellington.
New Line Cinema and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Present a Wingnut Films Production, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. As with the first two films in the Trilogy, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, the final film is a production of New Line Cinema and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures (MGM), with New Line managing production. Warner Bros. Pictures is handling worldwide theatrical distribution, with select international territories as well as all international television distribution being handled by MGM.