WELLINGTON, New Zealand — Wearing elf ears and wizard hats, sitting atop their dad's shoulders or peering from balconies, tens of thousands of New Zealanders watched their favorite "Hobbit" actors walk the red carpet at the film trilogy's hometown premiere.

An Air New Zealand plane freshly painted with "Hobbit" characters flew low over Wellington's Embassy Theatre, eliciting roars of approval from the crowd.

Sam Rashidmardani, 12, said he came to see Gollum actor Andy Serkis walk the red carpet – and he wasn't disappointed.

"It was amazing," Rashidmardani said of the evening, adding his Gollum impression: "My precious."

British actor Martin Freeman, who brings comedic timing to the lead role of Bilbo Baggins, said he thought director Peter Jackson had done a fantastic job on "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey."

"He's done it again," Freeman said in an interview on the red carpet Wednesday. "If it's possible, it's probably even better than `The Lord of the Rings.' I think he's surpassed it."

While it is unusual for a city so far from Hollywood to host the premiere of a hoped-for blockbuster, Jackson's filming of his lauded `LOTR' trilogy and now "The Hobbit" in New Zealand has helped create a film industry here. The film will open in theaters around the world next month.

One of the talking points of the film is the choice by Jackson to shoot it using 48 frames per second instead of the traditional 24 in hopes of improving the picture quality.

Some say the images come out too clear and look so realistic that they take away from the magic of the film medium. Jackson likens it to advancing from vinyl records to CDs.

"I really think 48 frames is pretty terrific and I'm looking forward to seeing the reaction," Jackson said on the red carpet. "It's been talked about for so long, but finally the film is being released and people can decide for themselves."

Jackson said it was strange working on the project so intimately for two years and then having it suddenly taken away as the world got to see the movie.

"It spins your head a little bit," he said.

Aidan Turner, who plays the dwarf Kili in the movie, said his character is reckless and thinks he's charming.

"I don't get to play real people it seems, I only get to play supernatural ones," he said. "So playing a dwarf didn't seem that weird, actually.

Perhaps the most well-known celebrities to walk the carpet were Cate Blanchett and Elijah Wood, who reprise their roles in the LOTR in the "Hobbit."

"Mostly I came here to see everyone. I like them all," said fan Aysu Shahin, 16, adding that Wood was her favorite. She said she wanted to see the movie "as soon as possible. I'm excited for it."

At a news conference earlier in the day, Jackson said many younger people are happy to watch movies on their iPads.

"We just have to make the cinema-going experience more magical and more spectacular to get people coming back to the movies again," he said.

Jackson said only about 1,000 of the 25,000 theaters that will show the film worldwide are equipped to show 48 frames, so most people will see it in the more traditional format. The movie has also been shot in 3D.

A handful of animal rights protesters held signs at the premiere.

The protest by the group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals comes after several animal wranglers said three horses and up to two dozen other animals had died during the making of the movies because they were housed at an unsafe farm.

Jackson's spokesman earlier acknowledged two horses had died preventable deaths at the farms but said the production company worked quickly to improve stables and other facilities and that claims of mistreatment were unfounded.

"No mistreatment, no abuse. Absolutely none," Jackson said at the news conference.

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  • "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" World Premiere

    WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND - NOVEMBER 28: Martin Freeman arrives at the 'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey' World Premiere at Embassy Theatre on November 28, 2012 in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

  • Peter Jackson

    Director Peter Jackson, right, poses with his daughter Katie on the red carpet at the premiere of his new film "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," at the Embassy Theatre, in Wellington, New Zealand, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012. (AP Photo/SNPA, Ross Setford) NEW ZEALAND OUT

  • Martin Freeman

    Martin Freeman who plays Bilbo Baggins poses on the red carpet for the premiere of "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," at Embassy Theatre in Wellington, New Zealand, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012. (AP Photo/SNPA, Ross Setford) NEW ZEALAND OUT

  • James Nesbitt

    Cast members James Nesbitt who plays Bofur, left, and Canadian actress Evangeline Lilly pose on the red carpet at the premiere of "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," at the Embassy Theatre, in Wellington, New Zealand, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012. (AP Photo/SNPA, Ross Setford) NEW ZEALAND OUT

  • Adam Brown

    Cast member Adam Brown who plays Ori, poses on the red carpet at the premiere of "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," at the Embassy Theatre, in Wellington, New Zealand, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012. (AP Photo/SNPA, Ross Setford) NEW ZEALAND OUT

  • Evangeline Lilly

    Cast member Canadian actress Evangeline Lilly waves to audience on the red carpet at the premiere of "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," at the Embassy Theatre, in Wellington, New Zealand, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012. (AP Photo/SNPA, Ross Setford) NEW ZEALAND OUT

  • Barry Humphries

    Cast member Barry Humphries who plays Great Goblin on the red carpet at the premiere of "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," at the Embassy Theatre, in Wellington, New Zealand, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012. (AP Photo/SNPA, Ross Setford) NEW ZEALAND OUT

  • Sylvester McCoy

    Sylvester McCoy who plays Radagast on the red carpet at the premiere of "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," at the Embassy Theatre, in Wellington, New Zealand, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012. (AP Photo/SNPA, Ross Setford) NEW ZEALAND OUT

  • Andy Serkis

    Cast member Andy Serkis, right, and his wife Loraine Ashbourne pose on the red carpet at the premiere of "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," at the Embassy Theatre, in Wellington, New Zealand, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012. (AP Photo/SNPA, Ross Setford) NEW ZEALAND OUT

  • Richard Armitage

    Cast member Richard Armitage poses on the red carpet at the premiere of "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," at the Embassy Theatre, in Wellington, New Zealand, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012. (AP Photo/SNPA, Ross Setford) NEW ZEALAND OUT

  • Mark Hadlow

    Cast member Mark Hadlow poses on the red carpet at the premiere of "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," at the Embassy Theatre, in Wellington, New Zealand, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012. (AP Photo/SNPA, Ross Setford) NEW ZEALAND OUT

  • Martin Freeman, Peter Jackson

    Cast member Martin Freeman, left, embraces director Peter Jackson at the premiere of "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," at the Embassy Theatre, in Wellington, New Zealand, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012. (AP Photo/SNPA, Ross Setford) NEW ZEALAND OUT

  • Richard Armitage

    Cast member Richard Armitage poses on the red carpet at the premiere of "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," at the Embassy Theatre, in Wellington, New Zealand, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012. (AP Photo/SNPA, Ross Setford) NEW ZEALAND OUT

  • Hugo Weaving, James Nesbitt

    Cast members Hugo Weaving, left, and James Nesbitt pose on the red carpet at the premiere of "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," at the Embassy Theatre, in Wellington, New Zealand, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012. (AP Photo/SNPA, Ross Setford) NEW ZEALAND OUT

  • Elijah Wood

    Elijah Wood who plays Frodo poses on his arrival for the premiere of "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," at Embassy Theatre in Wellington, New Zealand, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012. (AP Photo/SNPA, Ross Setford) NEW ZEALAND OUT

  • Cate Blanchett

    Cast member Cate Blanchett poses on the red carpet at the premiere of "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," at the Embassy Theatre, in Wellington, New Zealand, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012. (AP Photo/SNPA, Ross Setford) NEW ZEALAND OUT

  • "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" World Premiere

    WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND - NOVEMBER 28: Director Sir Peter Jackson emerges from from a Hobbit house before delivering a speech at the 'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey' World Premiere at Embassy Theatre on November 28, 2012 in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

  • "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" World Premiere

    WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND - NOVEMBER 28: Jed Brophy, who plays Nori, arrives at the 'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey' World Premiere at Embassy Theatre on November 28, 2012 in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

  • "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" World Premiere

    WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND - NOVEMBER 28: Dean O'Gorman, who plays Fili, arrives at the 'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey' World Premiere at Embassy Theatre on November 28, 2012 in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

  • NZEALAND-ENTERTAINMENT-FILM-HOBBIT

    Actress Evangeline Lilly arrives for the world premiere of 'The Hobbit' movie in Courtenay Place in Wellington on November 28, 2012. Huge crowds swarmed into central Wellington on November 28 for the world premiere of Peter Jackson's 'The Hobbit', an event that has sparked Middle Earth mania in New Zealand. AFP PHOTO / Marty Melville (Photo credit should read Marty Melville/AFP/Getty Images)

  • "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" World Premiere

    WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND - NOVEMBER 28: Cate Blanchett arrives at the 'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey' World Premiere at Embassy Theatre on November 28, 2012 in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

  • "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" World Premiere

    WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND - NOVEMBER 28: Evangeline Lilly arrives at the 'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey' World Premiere at Embassy Theatre on November 28, 2012 in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

  • NZEALAND-ENTERTAINMENT-FILM-HOBBIT

    Actor Andy Serkis walks out onto the stage at the world premiere of 'The Hobbit' movie in Courtenay Place in Wellington on November 28, 2012. Huge crowds swarmed into central Wellington on November 28 for the world premiere of Peter Jackson's 'The Hobbit', an event that has sparked Middle Earth mania in New Zealand. AFP PHOTO / Marty Melville (Photo credit should read Marty Melville/AFP/Getty Images)

  • "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" World Premiere

    WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND - NOVEMBER 28: Elijah Wood arrives at the 'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey' World Premiere at Embassy Theatre on November 28, 2012 in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

  • "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" World Premiere

    WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND - NOVEMBER 28: Director Sir Peter Jackson arrives at the 'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey' World Premiere at Embassy Theatre on November 28, 2012 in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

  • NZEALAND-ENTERTAINMENT-FILM-HOBBIT

    Director James Cameron (R) and Suzy Amis pose for a photo upon their arrival at the world premiere of 'The Hobbit' movie in Courtenay Place in Wellington on November 28, 2012. Huge crowds swarmed into central Wellington on November 28 for the world premiere of Peter Jackson's 'The Hobbit', an event that has sparked Middle Earth mania in New Zealand. AFP PHOTO / Marty Melville (Photo credit should read Marty Melville/AFP/Getty Images)

  • NZEALAND-ENTERTAINMENT-FILM-HOBBIT

    Actor Andy Serkis who plays the character Gollum speaks to reporters at the world premiere of 'The Hobbit' movie in Courtenay Place in Wellington on November 28, 2012. Huge crowds swarmed into central Wellington on November 28 for the world premiere of Peter Jackson's 'The Hobbit', an event that has sparked Middle Earth mania in New Zealand. AFP PHOTO / Marty Melville (Photo credit should read Marty Melville/AFP/Getty Images)

  • NZEALAND-ENTERTAINMENT-FILM-HOBBIT

    Actress Cate Blanchett speaks upon her arrival at the world premiere of 'The Hobbit' movie in Courtenay Place in Wellington on November 28, 2012. Huge crowds swarmed into central Wellington on November 28 for the world premiere of Peter Jackson's 'The Hobbit', an event that has sparked Middle Earth mania in New Zealand. AFP PHOTO / Marty Melville (Photo credit should read Marty Melville/AFP/Getty Images)

  • "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" World Premiere

    WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND - NOVEMBER 28: Sylvester McCoy, who plays wizard Radagast the Brown, arrives at the 'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey' World Premiere at Embassy Theatre on November 28, 2012 in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)