King Kong: Where versatility was key
From 1930s New York to Skull Island, Wellington stood in for virtually every location in King Kong. The range and versatility of the region’s locations, plus the world-class special effects facilities made Wellington an ideal base for the production.
Oscar-winning Kiwi director, Peter Jackson, used stunning local landscapes and locations in his 2005 remake of the classic film King Kong – the movie that inspired him to become a filmmaker.
The production of King Kong was based in Miramar, Wellington, particularly in the world-class facilities of Stone Street Studios, Wētā Workshop, Weta Digital, and Park Road Post Production.
1930s New York
New York was recreated 20 minutes from central Wellington on a vacant plot of land in the industrial area of Lower Hutt. Scenes set in the Broadway theatre from which King Kong makes his escape were filmed in Wellington's historic Opera House – one of the largest proscenium arch theatres of its kind in Australasia – as well as at the Auckland Civic Theatre, an hour's flight from Wellington.
Ocean scenes aboard the steamship Venture were filmed on the Kāpiti Coast, 45 minutes from the Wellington CBD, and the Cook Strait, a stretch of water between Wellington and the South Island. Meanwhile, scenes at the pier were shot locally at Miramar Wharf, just around the corner from the film production facilities.
Similarly, a large-scale set including the native village and giant wall which separated Kong from the rest of the island, was built above Shelly Bay - a minutes' drive from the production facilities - and filming for the Skull Island 'dinosaur run' scene took place at nearby Lyall Bay.
Creating movie magic
From motion capture to making miniatures, all the visual effects were done in Wellington. They really brought the world of King Kong to life and were created by Wellington companies Weta Digital and Wētā Workshop, which built detailed miniature models for the 800 or so miniature shots in the film. Weta Digital won an Academy Award® for their work on the epic movie.