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The New Zealand Hobbit Crisis

For Immediate Release

Essential reading for Hobbit fans and labor/globalization academics alike, THE NEW ZEALAND HOBBIT CRISIS looks back at an attempt to unionize actors on The Hobbit that blew up into a national crisis, driving down the NZ dollar and leading the Prime Minister and Parliament to dance to a Hollywood tune.

All was not well in Middle-earth . . .

After the third Lord of the Rings movie premiered in 2003, fans of the series eagerly anticipated production and release of its prequel, The Hobbit. It turned out they had a while to wait, as a series of troubles delayed production for years: lawsuits, studio bankruptcy, and ejection of producer/director Peter Jackson.

Then, in September 2010, when almost everything seemed resolved, U.S. and international actors unions issued a public alert advising their members “not to accept work on this non-union production.”

In THE NEW ZEALAND HOBBIT CRISIS (Hollywood Analytics; Nov. 22, 2012; paper USD $7.99; Kindle USD $4.99), entertainment attorney and Hollywood Reporter journalist Jonathan Handel shows how the two-month affair that began with local actors attempting to organize The Hobbit ended with a smackdown from U.S.-based Warner Bros. The studio managed to . . . well, let’s not spoil what for many will be a surprise. Suffice it to say that by the end, one member of Parliament said that Warners had “reduced New Zealand to a client state of a U.S. movie studio” while another said the country had become victim of a “shakedown.”

But how did an American multinational company all but subjugate a sovereign nation? THE NEW ZEALAND HOBBIT CRISIS tells the tale. Warner Bros. threatened to rip the troubled production from the country and events quickly spiraled out of control. New Zealand plunged into crisis. Saving the Hobbit was do or die for the local film industry, and the government scrambled to avoid disaster.

Protests and rallies erupted and the island nation’s currency fell on the possibility of losing the half-billion dollar project. Director Peter Jackson vowed to “fight like hell” to keep the shoot in New Zealand. But then studio executives flew in from Los Angeles like colonial masters ready to bring down the hammer.

What happened next was almost unbelievable – and proved, if nothing else, that not all Hollywood drama is on the screen.

About the Author:

Jonathan Handel ( is an enter¬tainment and technology lawyer at TroyGould in Los Angeles and a contributing editor for The Hollywood Reporter, where he covers entertainment labor and select other matters.
In addition to THE NEW ZEALAND HOBBIT CRISIS, Handel is also the author of the forthcoming books ENTERTAINMENT RESIDUALS: A FULL COLOR GUIDE, which describes the union reuse/royalty payments that are common in the entertainment industry and ENTERTAINMENT UNIONS AND GUILDS: AN INTERDISCIPLINARY BIBLIOGRAPHY, and the 2011 book HOLLYWOOD ON STRIKE!, which chronicles the Hollywood writers strike of 2007-2008 and the ensuing Screen Actors Guild stalemate that lasted through mid-2009.
Handel is a magna cum laude graduate of Harvard College and a cum laude graduate of Harvard Law School. He has taught at USC, Southwestern and UCLA Law Schools.
Handel’s writing has been published in the Los Angeles Times, Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Los Angeles Business Journal, Daily Journal, Huffington Post, and He has also appeared as a commentator about 750 separate times in international, national and local television, radio, print and online media.

Co-author Pip Bulbeck is the Australian correspondent for The Hollywood Reporter.
About the Book:
Author: Jonathan Handel
Publication Date: Nov. 22, 2012
Copyright Date: 2013
Imprint: Hollywood Analytics
ISBN-13: 978-0615731001 / Kindle ASIN B00ABOL9U0
Format: Paper / USD $7.99 / 92 pp.; Kindle / USD $4.99
Audiobook: Forthcoming
Additional Features: Glossary; bibliography; index
URLs for the paper and Kindle eds:
Paper /; Kindle /

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