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Hollywood threatens Wellywood

2011-05-24 11:41
Wellington - Wellington Airport vowed on Tuesday to press on with plans for a "Wellywood" sign in the New Zealand capital despite local opposition and legal threats from the guardians of the original US "Hollywood" landmark.

The eight metre high sign across a hillside owned by the airport was designed as a tribute to Wellington's film industry, which has created blockbusters such as The Lord of the Rings.

But the idea has divided the city's residents, with some labelling it "crass" and a "try-hard" attempt to ride the coat-tails of the real Hollywood, while others defend it as an edgy promotion that will boost tourism.

An opinion poll of 300 Wellington residents released on Tuesday found opponents were in the majority, with 64%, while only 22% thought it was a good idea.

Trademark rights

The plan also prompted a protest involving about 80 people at Wellington Airport on Monday, where demonstrators disrupted traffic and displayed placards opposing the sign.

By Tuesday evening, a Facebook page opposing the plan had more than 23 000 "likes" while a "Support Wellywood" page had just over 10 000.

And Prime Minister John Key said he was not convinced the plan was a good idea, adding: "I don't mind if they do it. It's up to them, but personally I'd put Wellington up."

The airport's problems mounted when the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce also weighed in, saying it was disappointed the idea had not been scrapped after it was first mooted last year.

Chamber chief executive Leron Gubler accused Wellington Airport of ignoring his organisation's concerns and said he wanted recognition that the chamber held trademark rights on the famous lettering in Los Angeles.

"Otherwise, the lawyers can sort it out, but that seems a shame, particularly in regard to a project that appears to be controversial in Wellington already," he said in a statement emailed to AFP.

Hugh Hefner

Gubler added: "We are not without a sense of humour, nor without legal rights."

In response, Wellington Airport released a letter dated earlier this month in which it raised the possibility of paying a licence fee to the chamber.

"Although this does not change Wellington Airport's position in relation to proceeding with the Wellywood sign, Wellington Airport remains open to discussions with the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce," it said in a statement.

The original Hollywood sign was erected in 1923 to advertise a property development called Hollywoodland.

The last four letters were removed in the 1940s and by the 1970s it had fallen into disrepair until Playboy mogul Hugh Hefner persuaded celebrities to refurbish it by each sponsoring a letter.

Hefner again rescued the sign last year, making a last-minute donation to a conservation fund set up to stop the land around the landmark being developed.
Read more on:    hugh hefner  |  new zealand  |  movies
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