The New Zealand screen industry has broken the NZ$3 billion barrier for the first time thanks to earnings from an increased number of feature films made in the country during the last financial year.
At a time when the movie world is focusing on New Zealand as Middle-earth with the making of The Hobbit Trilogy, Statistics New Zealand reports that the screen industry has grown 10% to reach revenue of $3.29 billion.
A total of 40 feature films were completed in New Zealand last year and revenue from these rose almost 50% to top $1 billion for the first time.
Film New Zealand Chief Executive Gisella Carr says the latest results could never have been dreamed of a few years ago and to achieve such figures in the face of intense international competition was a real testimony to the quality and resourcefulness of the New Zealand industry.
“The screen business is a young, 21st-century type of industry. Most other countries want an industry like this. New Zealand has it, and we can be very proud of it,” Carr said.
Film centre of excellence
As well as creative flair and ground-breaking technology, it is New Zealand’s easily accessible, stunning scenery that make it attractive to international film-makers plus the country’s reputation for being such a desirable place to live and work.
New Zealand is recognised as a centre of excellence for the art of film-making, largely due to Sir Peter Jackson and the creative teams of ‘Wellywood’ in Wellington.
New Zealand’s rapidly growing screen industry is supported by more than 2800 businesses - up from 2739 in 2011 - and production is spread throughout the country with important hubs in Auckland and the Queenstown / Otago region, as well as Wellington.
The latest survey tracks revenue and other indicators in film and television production and post-production, film distribution and television broadcasting in the 12 months to 1 April 2012.
It shows income from production and post-production for the first time made up slightly more than half of the total, at $1.67 billion.
“This is significant as it is the sector which is creating growth, particularly from feature films,” Carr said.
She said government investment in the sector was bringing an excellent return.
“The outlay is modest compared to total revenue, but it is absolutely vital in bringing screen work to New Zealand. The revenue figures underline the importance of the United States as our major partner.”
Film revenue increased by 47% to $1.04 billion and television broadcasting revenue grew 4% to $1.30 billion.
More than 500 one-off or stand-alone television programmes were made in New Zealand.
New Zealand Film Commission chief executive Graeme Mason said it was “fantastic” to see films being made that created revenue and employment.
International attention was being drawn to the local industry and New Zealand as a place to visit and do business, he said.
The commission was currently involved in more than 20 local feature films in various stages of pre-production, production, post-production.
“I also want to take my hat off to the independent films being made out there - together these efforts are having a huge impact on a screen sector going from strength to strength,” Mason said.
Statistics New Zealand said “the continuing success of Wellywood” played a big role in the sector’s growth.
Revenue from film in Wellington generated $828 million in 2012, up 67% from $495 million.
“In 2012, Wellington was home to 60% of all post-production businesses in New Zealand, compared with 31% for Auckland and 10% for the rest of New Zealand,” Statistics NZ reported.
“More specifically, Wellington is a leader in digital graphics, animation, and effects.”
Kiwi-made feature films released last year include Sione’s 2: Unfinished Business, The Hobbit, The Red House and The Most Fun You Can Have Dying.
And the growing Auckland film industry has hit the spotlight with the release of Evil Dead - a film shot entirely in the Auckland region which reached number one at the US Box Office in its opening weekend, grossing US$26 million.
The remake of the 1981 cult horror classic has been dubbed “the most terrifying motion picture you will ever experience” and was filmed on location in Auckland’s Woodhill Forest as well as the Riverhead and East Tamaki areas.
Producer Rob Tapert of Pacific Renaissance Pictures has helped to put Auckland on the world stage as a film location with television series such as Hercules, Xena, and Spartacus.
Auckland’s screen industry employs over 6000 people in more than 1400 local businesses and grosses about $2.2 billion each year.