The Portsmouth Miniatures Studio in Wellington was used to film iconic scenes for Peter Jackson's Lord Of The Rings trilogy and his monster movie remake King Kong, and had been booked for use on the upcoming blockbuster, which the director will produce.
Fire crews were called to the building on Friday afternoon (01Oct10) and they spent three hours tackling the monstrous blaze, which caused extensive damage to the structure. No one was hurt, according to local reports.
Matthew Dravitzki, a spokesman for Jackson's Wingnut Films production company, has confirmed they had been due to film scenes for The Hobbit there.
He tells NZPA, "It would have been used in the shooting of The Hobbit, yes. It's a specialist miniatures shooting facility, it's one of the only ones in the world, and I can't comment at this point as to whether (the damage) will cause a problem. I probably won't know that until after the weekend."
Dravitzki also revealed items of "commercial sensitivity" relating to the project were stored in the building.
The news is the latest in a long line of setbacks to hit The Hobbit - the film has been languishing in pre-production due to the ongoing financial problems at MGM Studios, and director Guillermo Del Toro quit due to the lengthy delays.
The movie hit headlines again last week (ends26Sep10) when a New Zealand actors' union announced plans to boycott the film over working conditions for local performers. The action has prompted movie bosses to consider moving the shoot away from New Zealand if the dispute is not resolved.