When The Lord of the Rings trilogy became a cultural phenomenon, people no longer had to imagine J.R.R. Tolkien’s mystical, supernatural universe; Peter Jackson had found it in New Zealand. The country’s rich variety of landscapes, from the rolling pastures of the North Island to staggering mountains on the South Island, helped bring to life what was previously only a fiction.

New Zealand has 13 national parks and reserves protect about one third of its land. These provide many of the locations for some of the most captivating scenery in recent film history. LOTR’s Mount Doom was one of Tongariro National Park’s three imposing volcanoes, while The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe featured the majestic mountains of New Zealand’s south as well as some unusual natural rock formations.

Recent and future movies like The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, out May 16, and Guillermo del Toro’s The Hobbit, scheduled for a 2011 release, re-crafted the unreal beauty of their fictional worlds in New Zealand.

As if the physical splendor weren’t enough to draw moviemakers in from all over the world, the government of New Zealand offers many incentives to film there, including a grant of 15 percent of qualifying expenditures for large-budget screen productions of feature films, television movies (drama) and television drama series or miniseries. There is no income tax for these large-budget productions and the production costs are an estimated 20 percent cheaper than those of neighboring Australia. Plus, the American dollar is faring pretty well there, worth about 1.277 New Zealand dollars.

It’s not hard to see why moviemakers from all over the world have used New Zealand to bring some of our favorite dreams to the silver screen. Beyond the ones mentioned above, New Zealand provided the breathtaking scenery for these other famous films:

The Piano
The Lost World: Jurassic Park
Whale Rider
The Last Samurai
King Kong
Bridge to Terabithia
10,000 B.C.

For more information about filming in New Zealand, visit www.filmnz.com.