An international animal rights organisation plans to protest at the world premiere of the Hobbit movie in Wellington, saying film-makers contributed to the death and mistreatment of animals.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is the first film of New Zealand director Sir Peter Jackson's latest trilogy based on J R R Tolkien's books and opens on 28 November.
PETA spokesperson Kathy Guillermo says the organisation was contacted by four animal wranglers who worked on the films concerned about what they had witnessed.
Ms Guillermo says abuse of animals is widespread in the international movie industry, but the Hobbit films stand out.
"This is a film-maker who is renowned for his computer-generated images but in fact dozens of animals were used, and 27 allegedly died, so what should be a wonderful piece of entertainment really turns into a life and death issue for many animals."
She says PETA hopes the protest will send a message to film-makers to treat animals well on sets. Protesters also plan to target premieres of the first film in the United States and Britain.
A statement on behalf of Sir Peter rejects accusations that 27 animals died due to mistreatment during the making of the films.
It says "extraordinary measures" were taken to make sure that animals were not used during action sequences or elsewhere that might create undue stress.
The statement says more than 55% of all shots using animals in the The Hobbit are computer generated, including horses, ponies, rabbits, hedgehogs, birds, deer, elk, mice, wild boars and wolves.
"The American Humane Association was on hand to monitor all use of animals by the production. No animals died or were harmed on set during filming.
"We regret that some of these accusations by wranglers who were dismissed from the film over a year ago are only now being brought to our attention. We are currently investigating these new allegations and are attempting to speak with all parties involved to establish the truth. "
Stars to attend premiere
A band of stars from the Hobbit movie will attend the premiere in Wellington.
They will walk a 500-metre-long red carpet running along Courtenay Place from the Embassy Theatre to Reading Cinemas, both of which are screening the film for invited guests.
Actors are expected include Martin Freeman, who plays the central role of Bilbo Baggins, Andy Serkis, who plays Gollum and Elijah Wood, who starred as Frodo in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Cate Blanchett and Hugo Weaving will also be there.
Sir Ian McKellen, who plays Gandalf, will not - but says, as ever, his heart is in Wellington.