Last updated: 10:00 AM ET, Tue July 26 2016

James Cameron Stars in Tourism New Zealand Campaign

Destination & Tourism | Josh Lew | July 26, 2016

James Cameron Stars in Tourism New Zealand Campaign

Photo courtesy of Tourism New Zealand

More than any other country, New Zealand has benefited from popular movie franchises. Though people are still going to the island nation to see the scenery they watched in the "Lord of the Rings" and "Hobbit" trilogies, the Tolkien-based buzz has died down somewhat. Now a new film franchise headed by one of Hollywood’s most famous directors could help keep Tourism new Zealand’s relationship with the silver screen going strong. 

Cameron promoting New Zealand

New Zealand has enlisted hall-of-fame director and part-time New Zealand resident James Cameron to help promote tourism. Cameron has been in the country for the past few years developing the sequels to the "Avatar" franchise. He and his wife now have a home near Wellington. 

The director has actually inked a deal with the government that guarantees that the films will be shot in New Zealand and that at least one premiere will take place in the country. (In return, Cameron’s production company will get significant tax breaks). 

100 Percent New Zealand campaign 

Unfortunately, the movies have been repeatedly delayed, with the latest release date now slated for 2018. Cameron has stepped in, however, to write and star in a series of short films (or long-form tourism commercials, if you prefer). 

The campaign, called James Cameron’s New Zealand, will include seven shorts. The first one, which has already been released, features the director and his wife partaking in some of the outdoor activities that New Zealand has become famous for: boating, hiking and snow sports. 

Read More: New Zealand Continues to Take Center Stage in Hollywood Blockbusters  

The films are part of a larger promotional effort by Tourism New Zealand. The post-Hobbit campaign is called 100 Percent New Zealand. 

Other movies also filmed in New Zealand

In the meantime, the now-famous Kiwi landscapes will co-star in other films. The Disney remake of "Pete’s Dragon" was shot in New Zealand. It will premiere in the United States on August 8. Filming took place in Rotorua and Queenstown, among other locations. Much of the CGI work was done in Wellington, which has become a hub for such animation and special effects work. Despite being filmed in New Zealand, the movie is actually set in a fictional town in the Pacific Northwestern US. 

A live-action version of the popular anime and manga franchise "Ghost in the Shell" recently wrapped filming in Wellington as well. This film will show how far New Zealand has developed as a movie-making destination, but it will probably be a CGI-heavy feature that will not show too much of the country. 

Wellington has become a kind of Southern Hemisphere Hollywood, but it is not quite correct to say that this has led to free advertising for Tourism New Zealand. According to reports, Cameron will qualify for a 25 percent tax rebate if he films a substantial portion of the Avatar sequels in the country.  Foreign films commonly receive rebates of 20-25 percent, which is part of the reason that they choose to film here instead of in the U.S. 

Not just movies, music too

New Zealand is not putting all its chips on the film industry. It has also embraced music. Earlier this year Auckland hosted the first ever Auckland City Limits, a festival inspired by the Austin City Limits Festival. During the event, hop star and festival headliner Kendrick Lamar was given a promotional tour of Waiheke Island, where some of New Zealand’s best wineries are located. 

These film and celebrity marketing strategies have helped New Zealand develop a more mainstream appeal. The country is certainly hoping that the "Avatar" movies, if they ever get made, will bring the same kind of tourism renaissance that the "Lord of the Rings" and "Hobbit" films did.    

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