Written By: - Date published: 9:54 am, October 31st, 2010 - 35 comments
Categories: business - Tags: brian rudman, finlay mcdonald, fran o'sullivan, john armstrong, mark sainsbury, peter conway, peter jackson, the hobbit, vernon small
Now the dust has settled on the Hobbit fiasco and it’s become clear the issue was tax breaks all along the media have done a very good job of post-fiasco analysis.
On Wednesday it was clear this was all about the money. Bryan Rudman went as far as to actually point out how embarrassing it was to be played like this.
By that evening the deal was almost done. Just a few minutes before it was announced Mark Sainsbury told CTU Secretary Peter Conway the union had been proven right. In fact he went as far as to ask why they weren’t crowing about it. There was no “told you so” moment from Conway. I suspect because they were more worried about the jobs at stake than in vindication.
On Thursday John Armstrong pointed out the real player in the game:
Money doesn’t just talk. In the case of outfits the size of Warner Bros, it yells.
Indeed. Those who screamed about big Aussie unions were very quiet about big American money.
The same day Vernon Small dug a little deeper:
While we are on the money, does anyone seriously believe that the studio had not even thought about the deals on offer elsewhere – that could cut costs by many tens of millions of dollars – till the union issue surfaced? Or that only then did it look around the world and spot subsidies it was already harvesting with five movies in Britain, including the special- effects-rich Harry Potter series?
The dispute was settled before the hoopla of the march and Jackson’s claim the Hobbit was going offshore. So why blow it up? Vernon Small again:
Had Warner Bros pulled the plug without that excuse, Sir Peter could have come under attack for abandoning his home country to direct “our” movie elsewhere. Warner would have looked greedy for asking for more to stay, or venal for leaving, and the Government would have looked weak and compliant if it had failed to retain the movie or bent to blackmail.
John Drinnan follows the money:
The Hobbit deal is not the first where New Zealand taxpayers have shelled out extra money to keep a Hollywood studio happy. And it won’t be the last.
From 2004 to last year taxpayers gave Sir Peter Jackson’s business interests and overseas production companies $230 million in subsidies from the Large Budget Screen Production Grant.
Fran O’Sullivan has also made it clear it was about the tax and John Key’s weak negotiating:
We can get all prissy about the fact that the Hollywood studios found Key’s inflexion point. Get over it. No one will remember any prime ministerial egg-on-face when the Hobbit omelette is finally cooked.
And today in the Sunday Star Times Finlay McDonald takes a swipe at John Key’s transparent “blame the actors” misdirection:
There’s a fair bit of collateral damage when that [Warners and/or a Peter Jackson starts throwing their weight around] happens, as the poor old actors have found out, but among the rubble is also the credibility and dignity of Key – forced to pretend he’s “saved” The Hobbit by promising exactly the kind of state subsidies he and his ideologically blinkered government don’t believe in.
I was tempted to joke that he should have included as part of the deal a walk-on cameo for himself in the eventual films. But I fear that performance, too, would be so unconvincing it would end up on the cutting-room floor.
As I said back while the unions were being crucified there was more to this story than first met the eye and I was confident that the real facts would come out. I was not so confident they would be picked up by journalists but I have to say our fourth estate has done a bloody good job of digging beneath the veneer of spin and reporting on the real issues.