‘The Hobbit’ Is Filming In New Zealand, And Everyone Is FINALLY Happy

There’s been so much hemming and hawing about “The Hobbit” production that we’ve almost lost track of which group is angry over what. But finally — finally — it seems like all the anger and wordplay is over with, as New Zealand Prime Minister John Key announced last night via a live press conference that an agreement has been reached between Warner Bros. and the New Zealand government… and “The Hobbit” will be staying in N.Z.

“I am delighted we have achieved this result,” Key said. “Making the two Hobbit movies here will not only safeguard work for thousands of New Zealanders, but it will also follow the success of the ’Lord of the Rings’ trilogy in once again promoting N.Z. on the world stage.”

So let’s recap: Peter Jackson is directing, Martin Freeman is starring as Bilbo Baggins, and the movies are being filmed in New Zealand. After seven years and a lot of doubts, everything actually finally came together!

What did it ultimately take to convince Warner Bros. to keep “The Hobbit” production on New Zealand shores? Key said that lawmakers will be introducing legislation tomorrow to “clarify the distinction between independent contractors and employees as it relates to the film production industry,” therefore (hopefully) resolving the conflicts New Zealand actors, who work as independent contractors, had with wages and work standards. So there’s that… and the fact that the N.Z. government will also stake Warner Bros. up to $25 million. The studio could see up to $15 million in rebates because the government has agreed to broaden of the criteria for its big-budget-movie incentives program. And, thanks to a “long-term strategic partnership” between WB and New Zealand to help foster tourism, the government will cover about $10 mil of the studio’s marketing costs.

That means production is gearing up to go, and the films are set to start shooting early next year. Andy Serkis and Ian McKellen still aren’t officially on board, but we can assume that now that everything’s straightened out we’ll be hearing “confirmed” next to their names pretty shortly.

“It’s good to have the uncertainty over, and to have everyone now full steam ahead on this project,” Key said. Uh, yeah, we definitely agree.

Christopher Nolan reveals the “Batman 3″ title, James Cameron commits to making “Avatar 2″ and “3” as his next films, and “The Hobbit” returns to New Zealand: Could today be any better for the film industry? Tell us your thoughts on all of this in the comments!