NZ's planned 'Wellywood' sign sparks Hollywood protest
AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE
WELLINGTON, May 24: The New Zealand capital of Wellington is to have a giant "Wellywood" sign emblazoned across a hillside despite criticism and threats of legal action for the blatant copy of the famed Hollywood symbol.
Wellywood was first mooted 15 months ago, prompting Hollywood Chamber of Commerce chief executive Leron Gubler to challenge the idea saying the world famous Hollywood lettering was trademarked.
"If they do that with the Wellywood sign then I would think that would be a violation of our trademark ... I am checking that with our attorney," he said.
But Wellington Airport announced Saturday it will erect an eight-by-30 metre (26x100 foot) Wellywood sign on a hillside it owns overlooking the city.
Airport chief executive Steve Fitzgerald said they wanted to promote the film industry in the city which is home to acclaimed director Peter Jackson and the Oscar-winning Weta Workshop which designs and manufactures movie props.
"At Wellington Airport we are proud to do this through celebrating Wellington´s talent and success," Fitzgerald said.
"Wellington has already produced two of the top five highest grossing films of all time and there are high hopes that there is much more success to come."
However, a New Zealand marketing company director Wayne Attwell described a Wellywood sign as "quite crass" and said it would detract from the perception of Wellington as a sophisticated city.
"The sign is positioning the city as ´We are Wellywood. We are a bit try-hard. We are a bit behind the times. We are a follower´."
A Wellington MP, Trevor Mallard, joined the criticism saying "this is a pale imitation of the Hollywood sign which makes us look like try-hards".
Jackson, the director of the much-garlanded "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy, supports the Wellywood idea but British actor Sir Ian McKellen, who played the wizard Gandalf in the three movies, has given it the thumbs down.
View of the Hollywood sign.
Jack Yan, co-author of Beyond Branding and a director of the Medinge Group branding think-tank in Sweden, believed Wellywood breached intellectual property law and has notified the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce the sign is going ahead.
"I do not believe parody is a defence in this case," he said.