Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Cultural Representation of New Zealand's Landscapes in the Films of The Lord of the Rings and its Implications for Tourism

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posted on 2021-11-05, 01:48 authored by Carl, Daniela

Filmic images influence how we see the world and filmic tourists visit places to experience the image they have seen on the screen. New Zealand is an example of a destination that has embraced the relationship between film and tourism. Through its box-office success and the associated tourist promotions, The Lord of the Rings (TLotR) film trilogy has exposed New Zealand's landscapes to a global audience of potential travellers. This study analyses the landscape portrayal in the first and second film of TLotR and filmic tourists' experiences of these landscapes. As with many other film tourism destinations, the screen locations are a mix of real landscapes, film sets, and digital enhancements. Thus, the tourist will not necessarily be able to experience the landscapes of the films. This results in implications regarding the sustainability of film tourism and tourism management. The study employed an overall interpretive approach to analyse the landscape portrayal in the films and filmic tourists' experiences. Triangulation was used to reveal iconic landscapes of the films. Empirical research was undertaken with three tourism operators offering TLotR themed products: a half-day tour of the Hobbiton location in Matamata, a half-day jeep safari tour around Queenstown, and a multi-day tour of 'New Zealand as Middle-earth' for TLotR enthusiasts. Filmic tourists' experiences of former TLotR film sites are explored in these case studies. The cultural landscapes portrayed in the films are a combination of actors' performances, narratives in the plot, film sets and digitally generated images. New Zealand's landscapes were used as geography, metaphor and spectacle as part of the narrative. This study determined that Hobbiton, Rivendell and Edoras were the three main iconic landscapes of the films. The findings show that the more perfect the representation of hyper-reality in the tours, the higher the satisfaction and the more enhanced the tourist experience. Filmic tourists desire to step into the film set and to be part of the film when re-enacting film scenes. In addition, guides integrate stories about the challenge of filmmaking or behind-the-scenes' anecdotes, which served to enhance the fascination and 'authenticity' of the experience. There is still a need for more information and support to ensure high quality interpretation and guiding given the importance of these aspects in mediating tourist experience and informing resultant levels of satisfaction. By better understanding how filmic tourists experience these cultural landscapes, tourism operators and destination marketers can better meet expectations, thereby expanding the beneficial effects of film tourism on destinations.


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Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline


Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Science

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences


Smith, Karen; Kindon, Sara