In time to meet visiting Warner Bros. executives, thousands of New Zealanders took their streets Monday (Oct. 25) to rally in support of keeping “The Hobbit” films in their country.

 “Part 1” and “Part 2” were initially scheduled to shoot on the Pacific island, but after labor and union disputes with the local actors this month, director Peter Jackson indicated that the production would move elsewhere.
 
The disputes have since been quelled and the blacklist lifted, but Jackson said last week that the shift to stability arrived too late.
 
Warner Bros. is visiting the island this week to meet with the country’s Prime Minister John Key and other delegates and to assess the cost and practicality of the move.
 
Citizens – some dressed as hobbits from the famed J.R.R. Tolkien fantasy novel, carrying signs like “New Zealand is Middle-Earth” – gathered at the capital Wellington and other city centers to show their commitment to keep the $500 million production there. Jackson (a native New Zealander) shot his famed “Lord of the Rings” films in the country, which proved to be a boon to the tourism industry there.
 
According to Reuters, if “The Hobbit” left, it might cost the country $1.5 billion. Warner is scouting alternative locations in England, Scotland, Ireland, Canada, Australia and Eastern Europe.
 
“Part 1” is scheduled to arrive in December of 2012. Jackson announced some principal casting – including Martin Freeman as lead Bilbo Baggins -- last week.
 
Guillermo del Toro was originally slated to direct, but left the project in May after a series of delays.