The (unofficial) word on the street is that pre-production on The Hobbit is officially due to begin around August. A fairly large number of people are expected to be hired soon on contracts, to companies like Weta Workshop and Stone Street Studios.
By all accounts it couldn't have come at a better time for many - the last big project here in Wellington went completely belly-up ("Kingdom Come", a recently cancelled project about the life of Jesus Christ), and the recession was hitting people quite hard.
And of course, everyone's rearing to get back to Middle-earth!
- Jack M.