Peter Jackson to pump millions into NZ's $134m blockbuster plan

12:50 PM Friday December 11, 2015 Patrice Dougan

Sir Peter Jackson and Sir Richard Taylor at work on the set of King Kong. Photo / Pierre Vinet, supplied

A movie museum, backed by film-makers Sir Peter Jackson and Sir Richard Taylor, will boast a "rare and unusual collection" of movie memorabilia that "can't be seen anyway else in the world", an insider says.

The museum will be part of a $134 million joint convention centre and museum to be built on Wellington's waterfront if the council votes to give it the green light this afternoon.

Sir Peter and Sir Richard are backing the project, with a new company The Movie Museum Ltd, which will pump millions of dollars of their own money and their own movie memorabilia into the museum if councillors vote in favour of the development.

The three-storey joint convention centre and combined movie museum will sit on the capital's waterfront, close to Te Papa.

Wellington City Council will hold a closed meeting at 2.30pm today to vote on the proposals, with a media conference planned afterwards.

The Movie Museum Ltd told NZME it would present details of its "long-awaited vision of a world-class film museum" this afternoon.

The company was formed by the two world class film-makers and Weta Workshop founder to "realise their dream of a movie museum in Wellington which brings together material from their many film projects as well their own world-renowned movie collections", project director George Hickton said.

It promises "to inspire Wellingtonians and domestic and international visitors alike", he said.

"It will span the award-winning, Hollywood-scale productions the Weta Group of companies has helped bring to the big screen through to the earlier home-grown movies, and will also encompass one of the most valuable collections of Hollywood memorabilia anywhere in the world," Mr Hickton said.

"The Movie Museum will be a home for thousands of the priceless designs, props, models and set pieces from the numerous film productions, from whole worlds to single weapons, creatures to costumes, make-up to miniatures, vehicles and more -- an astonishing archive of Wellington film-making has been collected, curated and is ready to be shared.

"This museum could only be realised in Wellington. The company's founders all live in Wellington and it is also the place that some 2000 talented film-makers and craftspeople call home. The Movie Museum will celebrate their work, bringing the film industry closer to the people and communities which support it."

If completed, the museum is expected to offer permanent and temporary exhibition spaces, a retail shop, cafe and permanent offices.

On display will be memorabilia from the sets of movies directed by Sir Peter and worked on by Sir Richard's Weta Workshop, as well as items from their own personal collections. The two Hollywood greats are avid movie memorabilia collectors, and the items on display would be "rare and unusual", an insider said. A collection that "can't be seen anywhere else in the world".

Excitement over the project is already building, with Wellington deputy mayor Justin Lester saying it would be like "the Weta Cave times 100", and could "rival Te Papa".

The movie museum would be similar in importance to Wellington as Disneyland was for California when it first opened, Mr Lester told Radio New Zealand this morning.

"Likewise I think this project will become synonymous with Wellington," he said. "For an international tourist coming to New Zealand I think this will be the most significant man-made attraction.

"I think it will be really large, it will put Wellington front and centre in the tourist map, so we'll see a lot more people coming to Wellington, no one will by pass the city."

However, the movie-makers are understood to be unhappy with his comparison to Disneyland, as the project will not be a theme park, but a museum of movie memorabilia.

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At work on the set of Brain Dead. Photo / Supplied

The museum could be "from an international perspective, possibly a larger drawcard" than Te Papa, Mr Lester said. The national museum draws more than a million visitors every year.

"All of the memorabilia Sir Peter Jackson and Sir Richard Taylor have acquired over the years from their films, but also other memorabilia that they've also acquired, will all be on display, [in] over 10,000sq m right in the heart of the CBD."

A budget of just over $130 million has already been budgeted for the joint project in the council's 10 year plan, Mr Lester said.

"We set aside a bunch of money for two projects in our long terms plan, we've already budgeted for it, so there will be no burden to ratepayers."

Sir Peter and Sir Richard would fund the internal fit-out, which was expected to run into the millions of dollars.

"This is huge for the city, I don't think it can be understated really. This is massive," Mr Lester said.

"We've been talking about the movie museum ever since the Lord of the Rings took off in the early 2000s, and finally we're getting some traction."

The council is expected to approve the convention centre today, and vote to confirm it can buy the land for the movie museum.

"It will still go out for public consultation on the movie museum and we'll confirm that early in 2016, but we'll definitely confirm the convention centre this afternoon," Mr Lester told Radio New Zealand.

Councillor Jo Coughlan, chairwoman of the economic growth and arts committee, told Newstalk ZB this morning that the museum would be "huge for Wellington".

"We certainly don't have anything like this in New Zealand, and it will make Wellington a great destination for people to come to for conventions and of course this wonderful movie museum," she said.

Building the joint venture would generate $36 million during construction, with another $31 million of GDP once completed, and create more than 1000 jobs, she said.

"It's quite big numbers," she said.

"I think the combo of the movie museum and convention centre will be a very powerful attractor for Wellington."

The project would be funded by the council, through money set aside in the 10-year plan, while the internal fit-out of the museum would be paid for by Sir Peter and Sir Richard.

"We [the council] are able to do that within our borrowing levels and without additional rates increases," she said. "As part of our 10 year plan we have certified funding."

She added: "Now we're able to secure the land and make it happen."

The convention centre would hope to attract delegates from all over New Zealand, but would also target the eastern cities of Australia, Ms Coughlan said on Newstalk ZB.

"It's not about recycling business from around New Zealand, it's about attracting new people to come to Wellington, and certainly Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne are all just a quick trip away from Wellington."

If the Wellington Airport runway extension went ahead, the council would "absolutely" hope to attract visitors from further afield, such as Asia and North America, Ms Coughlan said.

"Why not? We're trying to get people to come from as far away as possible. That's the thing, it's about building the infrastructure to be able to support growth in this part of the economy."

If the project gets the go-ahead, it was hoped to be completed by 2018, she said.

Mark McGuinness of property Developer Willis Bond who is involved in the project, said it was "premature" to discuss the details of the movie museum when the council had yet to formally decide whether it would go ahead with it.

"As a project we think it's very exciting, and fantastic for Wellington," he said,

"It's all about having a lot of different reasons for people to visit the city in a tourism sense, and [the movie museum] is another very strong string to the bow."

He added: "Ultimately it's for the councillors to decide whether they're in favour or not, but certainly all the indications I get is that people are enthusiastic about it."