Hobbit director says magic is in the air

Peter Jackson hopes the new technology he used on his "Hobbit" movie trilogy will create a magical experience that will get people into theatres.

Speaking at a news conference in Wellington hours before the Wednesday premiere of "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," Jackson said the films were shot at 48 frames per second instead of the traditional 24 to give them greater clarity. He likened the technology to the leap from vinyl records to CDs.

He said we live in an age when many younger people are happy to watch movies on their iPads.

"We just have to make the cinema-going experience more magical and more spectacular to get people coming back to the movies again," he said.

At the Cinema Con theatre owner's convention in April, Jackson got a mixed reception for preview footage of "The Hobbit" shown at 48 frames per second. Some observers thought the images were too clear and the result so realistic that it took away from the magic of the film medium.

Jackson said Wednesday that when the movie opens worldwide next month in 25,000 theatres that only about 1,000 of them will be equipped to show the movie in 48 frames, so most people will see it in the more traditional format. The movie has also been shot in 3D.

"You are dipping your toe in the water, and it's this new way of shooting and projecting a film," Jackson said.

Jackson and most of the stars of the trilogy, including lead actor Martin Freeman, who plays hobbit Bilbo Baggins, held a relaxed, joking news conference at the museum Te Papa. Nearby, sunny weather was encouraging thousands of locals to gather around the 500-yard red carpet leading to the Embassy Theatre hosting the premiere.

Jackson turned serious, however, in addressing claims that animals depicted on screen had been mistreated.

"No mistreatment, no abuse. Absolutely none," Jackson said on Wednesday. "You've got a very radical political organization which has jumped on this," he added, referring to PETA.

He said the allegations were an insult to everyone who worked on the films and that PETA's attempts to get publicity at the premiere were "pretty pathetic."

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