New Zealand Kisses 'The Hobbit''s Big Furry Feet

[caption id="attachment_8628" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="New Line"]Ian McKellan in "The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King"[/caption]

After weeks of arguments, recriminations and bitter public screaming matches, New Zealand and Warner Bros. have kissed and made up over production on "The Hobbit." For those playing along at home, the final score looks something like this: Warner Bros. 1, New Zealand 0.

Not that it's all bad news for New Zealand, of course; after all, the deal, which was reported by The Hollywood Reporter, means that the tiny island nation will reap the benefits that come along with having a $500 million production staged on its shores -- namely, $500 million pumped into the local economy over the next several years.

But in order to mend fences with Warner Bros. and "The Hobbit" mastermind Peter Jackson, who last week issued a scathing denunciation of the local industry union, NZ Actors' Equity, the country had to agree to unprecedented concessions -- including, apparently, national legislation that will likely cripple future film union activity.

And in addition to actually changing the country's laws at Warner's request, New Zealand has also agreed to spend a little coin -- $15 million in the form of an incentive rebate and another $10 million to help defray marketing costs associated with hyping New Zealand as a destination for tourists and movie productions alike.

In the end, the episode, which resembled nothing so much as a couple of petulant tweens angrily texting each other before hooking up at the prom, will likely be remembered for being one of the biggest tactical backfires in the history of labor negotiations, as NZ Actors' Equity's attempts to leverage "The Hobbit" to gain concessions instead ends with the government itself legislating against them. Whoops! Looks like money -- especially $500 million of it -- still talks.

But frankly, the union's loss is every film fan's gain. Because it now looks like everything is finally full speed ahead for "The Hobbit," to which we say, thank god.

And who knows. Maybe next year we'll take a vacation down in the beautiful island nation of New Warner Brotherton.