Wellington, New Zealand, seemingly shut down yesterday as elves, dwarves, wizards, and, of course, hobbits filled the street for the world premiere of the first installment in a new Middle-earth trilogy, "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey."
The world expected a large affair for the return to J.R.R. Tolkien's mystical world after a nine-year gap since "The Lord of the Rings" ended with "Return of the King," but few could have anticipated the throngs of fans who took the streets to welcome director Peter Jackson and his cast at the Embassy Theater in Wellington.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, an estimated hundred thousand people lined a red carpet that stretched 1,600 feet. (For reference, that's the length of more than 450 hobbits stacked one on top of the each other.)
The event was not entirely celebratory, however. With the recent animal cruelty controversy still fresh in the minds of many around the world, Jackson took some time out of the pre-premiere press conference to once again deny claims of animal abuse on the New Zealand set. The director said (via Deadline) that there was "no mistreatment, no abuse," and again accused PETA of seeking publicity, a move he called "pretty pathetic."
Ultimately, the controversy could not bring down the excitement surrounding the massive premiere and one of the first screenings of the film. "X-Men" director Bryan Singer was on hand to see the film and tweeted his reaction to the controversial high frame-rate, writing "Just saw #Hobbit. Having some serious frame rate envy. Amazing and involving. Loved it! And @ianmckellen118, my friend, you are brilliant!"
"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" opens in theaters on December 14.
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