Bringing JRR Tolkien’s epic quest of hobbits, humans, and elves to a close, The Return of the King marked the end of a huge filming achievement. The final The Lord of the Rings film closed a long journey for actors, extras, and film-workers from around Aotearoa New Zealand and the world.
The 2003 release saw a world premiere bring Wellington to a standstill, and scored notable breakthroughs for the local film industry. Held in Wellington, the world premiere of The Return of the King saw a parade begin at Parliament and featured two hundred extras in costume, and demonstrated the growing profile of Aotearoa New Zealand’s film industry on the world stage.
Following its release, The Return of the King went on to break records at the box office and the Academy Awards, winning in every category it was nominated for (eleven in total). Oscars for visual effects, costume design, and make-up illustrated the skills of workers at Wellington’s Wētā Workshop and Wētā FX. As Nancy Swarbrick notes in Te Ara – The Encylopedia of New Zealand, the film’s stunning financial and critical success further increased international interest in Aotearoa New Zealand as a place to make big budget movies.
Date of issue: 1 November 2023