If Warner Bros want to take their ball and play somewhere else – well, just let ’em go

They look like Labour supporters.

They look like Labour supporters.

It is probably economic treason to say so, and Mrs Grumble delivered a caution to that effect.

But Alf is bound to say he couldn’t give a toss for The Hobbit and won’t be going to see it. Among other considerations, he is of an age where a visit to the gents will be required some time between the movie’s start and its finish, and this means he will (1) miss some of the action and (2) disrupt the viewing of others when he pushes desperately past them to make that visit.

Oh, and he does not give a toss about what Warner Bros might think about this country as a location for making movies.

If our film industry is dependent on subsidies to get by, then (as our farmers could point out) we are better off without it. We got rid of subsidies from agriculture. Film-makers should be no more advantaged than the farmers.

Alf makes these observations on reading (here) that Warner Bros is warning our government against releasing so-called confidential documents about the Hobbit union debate. To do so – the Hollywood moguls are saying – would be a “major disincentive” to future film-making in New Zealand.

Here’s what’s happening –

The New Zealand Ombudsman has ordered the Government to release documents about the deal it struck to ensure the Hobbit movies were made in the country.

The government secured the three movies by changing employment laws and beefing up the tax rebate sweetener for the productions, resulting in an additional $25 million in incentives for Warner Bros.

Unions fought the law changes and the Labour Party accused the government of chequebook legislation.

The documents, all of which opposed the 2010 unionisation attempt, include sensitive communications between Warner subsidiary New Line Cinemas, Peter Jackson’s Wingnut Films and government ministers.

The Herald report quotes from The Hollywood Reporter, which says New Line insists some of the documents reflect the company’s “negotiations and innermost thinking, including certain strategic decisions, legal and personal opinions, offers from third party governments and other private information”.

Radio New Zealand has a starring role to play in his drama, because someone there applied for the documents in November 2010 under the Official Information Act.

The Beehive would not play ball and ministers refused on the grounds they were commercially sensitive.

The broadcaster appealed the decision and on January 31, Ombudsman David McGee ruled 18 documents, including emails between Hobbit director Sir Peter Jackson and government officials, must be released.

In his 29-page ruling McGee said the information in the documents didn’t pose serious commercial risks.

But New Line thinks otherwise. In a statement included in the ruling, it warned release of the documents would affect future relations.

“If the government is not willing to adequately protect this sensitive information from disclosure, this will operate as a major disincentive to motion picture studios as well as local and foreign talent – to utilise New Zealand as a location for future productions.”

Wingnut Films was clearly discomforted, too.

“I can categorically assure you that if the above information was released and a similar situation occur in the future, neither myself nor Wingnut Films would be inclined to help the Government again with such a candid level of advice and opinion,” reported The Hollywood Reporter.

It was not clear whether the “I” referred to Peter Jackson.

The Boss – as we all know – has defended the corporate welfarism in which he indulged when giving the movie moguls several million bucks of good public money. He said production generated 3000 extra jobs and New Zealand gained priceless tourism publicity.

Dunno about the priceless tourism publicity.

Mrs Grumble – who has seen the first of The Hobbit movies – came home and said it gives the impression this country is inhabited by very hairy people with an inclination to gluttony and fisticuffs.

She knows some Labour supporters who might fit that bill. But not Nats.

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