Despite Labor Resolution, WB Could Move 'The Hobbit' To The UK 'Harry Potter' Stages

So, you thought that after SAG and AFTRA called off the labor union boycott of The Hobbit that things would be all smooth sailing for the production? Nope. Despite an end to the union dispute that started with a pairing of a small New Zealand actors' organization and an Australian outfit and grew to encompass some of the largest motion picture unions, The Hobbit may still leave New Zealand.

Where would the production go? Eastern Europe has been one possible destination, as mentioned by Peter Jackson. But his wife, The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings co-writer and co-producer Fran Walsh, says Warner Bros. is keen on using the Leavesden Studios where Harry Potter was shot.

Fran Walsh told Radio NZ today,

[Warner Bros. has] a huge studio that Harry Potter have vacated that they own and they say would be perfect for us.

That's the same set of stages that the studio now owns and plans to eventually open as a sort of tourist destination. That makes this a good prospect for Warner Bros. for a couple of reasons. One is that after shooting the Harry Potter series on those stages, the studio has a good working relationship with all the necessary vendors and individuals in the region. The other is that, while opening a Harry Potter studios attraction might seem like a lucrative prospect, being able to open a joint Harry Potter / Hobbit attraction would be even more lucrative.

The 50,000 sq. meter studio also has a 32 hectare back lot upon which open-air sets could be built, as well as production office space. Warner Bros. plans to turn the studio into a "a European hub for post-production, including visual effects, animatronics and film editing in the UK." [via The Playlist]

Meanwhile, Anne Thompson forwards a statement from Warner Bros. on the matter:

Recent reports that the boycott of The Hobbit was lifted by unions a number of days ago and that Warner Bros asked to delay this announcement are false. It was not until last night that we received confirmation of the retractions from SAG, NZ Equity and AFTRA through press reports.  We are still awaiting retractions from the other guilds.  While we have been attempting to receive an unconditional retraction of the improper Do Not Work Orders for almost a month, NZ Equity/MEAA continued to demand, as a condition of the retractions, that we participate in union negotiations with the independent contractor performers, which negotiations are illegal in the opinion of the New Zealand Attorney General.  We have refused to do so, and will continue to refuse to do so.  The actions of these unions have caused us substantial damage and disruption and forced us to consider other filming locations for the first time.  Alternative locations are still being considered.