After a month in theaters, Peter Jackson's The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey has grossed nearly $900 million worldwide. That number's got to make everyone who worked on the flick happy, but it's making one New Zealand politician angry. Why? Because he wants some of that money back.
Back when The Hobbit was in production, the New Zealand government offered Jackson's production company, Wingnut Films, a $56 million ($67 million in New Zealand dollars) subsidy, with the understanding that Jackson's production would create jobs and boost the country's economy. After hiring hordes of extras, set builders, drivers, caterers and more (not to mention all the hotel rooms the production probably booked), both Wingnut and New Zealand Prime Minister John Key agreed that The Hobbit accounted for something like 3,000 new jobs in New Zealand while it was in production.
While that money-for-jobs subsidy might seem like a fair trade to many (including, it seems, Key), New Zealand First Party Leader Winston Peters isn't convinced. Calling the 3,000 jobs estimate a number "plucked out of the air," Peters is demanding that the entire subsidy be repaid by The Hobbit's production companies.
"Now the first movie has grossed more than $1 billion, Warner Brothers should repay the $67 million subsidy the movie moguls sucked from Kiwi taxpayers," Peter said in a recent interview.
Peters also complained that many of the jobs created by the production will not be around when the shoot is over, but that's how the film industry works. You make a movie, add it to your resume, then see what other movies you can make. For his part, Key is standing by his decision to help fund the movie.
"The Government stands by its commitment to attract and retain the film industry in New Zealand in order to reap these significant economic benefits," Key's office said in a statement.
Of course, it's always possible Peters was just trying to land a political blow against Key, as evidenced by the way he ended his attack on the Hobbit subsidy.
"The film industry fat cats deserve millions of dollars in tax breaks because they are on a 'worldwide playing field'...Yet somehow that same logic does not apply to our manufacturing industry."
So whose side do you come down on? Do we give filmmakers government funds if we know they're going to make an economic impact, or do we let the filmmakers fend for themselves?