The Hobbit is finally on top of Fortune’s Wheel.  It’s hard to believe after so many months of mopey speculation, but there is actually a real production going on.  A real film production with a green light, a director, and the beginnings of a cast.

But would it have a location? That’s been the question on everyone’s mind these past weeks, as The Hobbit became embroiled in labor union boycotts. New Zealand was perilously close to losing the production, prompting Kiwis to take to the streets this week to champion their right to Middle Earth. There has been an astonishing show of support for The Hobbit and WETA this week, and if you check out, they’ve got loads of video showing the rallies that have taken place.

And it worked! The Hobbit will be filming in New Zealand!  NZ Prime Minister John Key announced in a press conference that the government would give Warner Bros a rebate of up to $15 million, and will offset up to $10 million of Warner Bros’ marketing costs. The NZ government will also introduce legislation to “broaden the criteria for its large budget incentive program” and clarify the employment status of film industry workers.  Key refused to offer any specifics on this legislation, saying it was a commercial secret for the studio. But he was confident that the winner was New Zealand, not Hollywood. “Making the two movies here will not only safe guard work for thousands of New Zealanders but will also allow us to follow the success of the Lord of The Rings trilogy and once again promoting New Zealand on the world stage.”

The amount of good news being thrown at this production is really astonishing.   I may even be happier about this news than the casting of Martin Freeman.  The scenery in the LOTR trilogy was breathtaking, and made the landscape as much of a vital character as any of the Fellowship.  It’s good news for the production, the cast, and the country of New Zealand. (I hope some locals will pitch in their take on this in the comments and forums.) I’m glad for all involved that this has worked out so well.

Now bring on the rest of the casting!  Who is going to be Bard the Bowman? Smaug’s voice? Bjorn? We need more news to maintain this high. Or some pipeweed….

[via The Hollywood Reporter and 3 News]