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Reel Collectibles keeps fandom alive in Queenstown

December 4, 2011 at 4:18 pm by MrCere  - 

QUEENSTOWN, NEW ZEALAND — Queenstown has a powerful international flavor. Stop and listen on the streets and you are as likely to hear a language from Europe or Asia as English and even that comes in several flavors: Kiwi, Aussie, British with the occasional Yank thrown in.

It is a city of tourists that include backpackers and couples in retirement years soaking up all the world has to offer including the incredible scenery of the amazing Queenstown by Lake Wakatipu. This is great of course, but young travelers and those in the golden years aren’t the best demographics for movie collectibles.

So it might surprise some to find Hugh Clark and Sarah Dobson carving out a niche with high-end items made by the likes of Weta Workshop and Sideshow Collectibles at their Reel Collectibles shop. But there they are in the Queenstown Mall on Beach St., selling superhero items, Lord of the Rings stuff (a given in that part of the world) and Star Wars swag. Expect an avalanche of Hobbit stuff when the films hit the world a year from now.

Clark and Dobson are savvy enough not to confuse the storefront with their business though. They trade heavily online as well and attend New Zealand’s Armageddon conventions to attract new loyalists and to make sales.

The day I visited the pair in Queenstown, the planned interview quickly turned into a conversation about all things across the spectrum of fandom but especially collecting and instead of interviewing like a journalist, we chatted like old friends.

One of the great luxuries about owning a business that doesn’t depend only on the physical storefront to pay the bills, is Clark and Dobson can close up when it feels right and in Queenstown, there are a lot of things to close for — like dinner.

The chat turned into dinner at FergBurger, which is one of the “must do” items on the Queenstown list; And yes you can consider that an endorsement.

Clark is a native Kiwi, but Dobson is one of the many in that part of New Zealand who came as a traveler and never managed to leave. Mutual interests, especially in Lord of the Rings, brought the partners together and helped prompt the shop. Peter Jackson’s movies helped ignite the spark of the collectibles as well and the great thing about visiting the shop is that these two don’t just sell merchandise, they love it.

“It’s like Christmas to us when new stock arrives and we really are like big kids in a big kids toy store,” Clark said. “We started this business because we fell in love with both movies and collectibles. That does make things tough sometimes, because we always want to buy the cool stuff that comes in.”

For instance, Dobson and I talked in geek detail about the craftsmanship of the Weta King Kong chess set on display near the front of the store. In the middle is a table with chairs around, allowing a spot to grab a chat in the store and to give customers a chance to appreciate what they are considering buying.

Orlando Bloom seems to be the talk of the South Island currently and Reel Collectibles has had a near miss with a friend finding him moments after leaving the shop and also just missing Andy Serkis. But the signed photo book in the store is evidence of plenty of hits as well. Some of the prouder names include Richard Taylor and George Lucas with photos and signatures from both. (Yup, even George Lucas visits here, likely not as a backpacker.)

While much of the merchandise is special order, what does appear in the shop creates a fun atmosphere and includes a few signed items. Bottles of drinkable True Blood dot a shelf while opposite a display case is filled with toys and then a massive, impressive statue of Weta’s King Kong locked in mortal combat with a tyrannosaur. Some stylized Lord of the Rings figures by Gentle Giant catch sharp eyes as they walk in but it was a Sideshow Daredevil figure on a tombstone cross that really caught my eye. But, with only so much room, much of the great stuff is online and not in the store at all.

Like any such store, Clark and Dobson must keep a keen eye for what is hot and what is fading but since they are part of fandom, that comes pretty naturally. (They are members of the New Zealand garrison of the 501st costuming legion.) Whatever the reason, it makes a great popular culture Queenstown destination.

Posted in Collectibles, Hobbit Movie, Lord of the Rings, Merchandise, MrCere in New Zealand, New Zealand, Orlando Bloom, Other Merchandise, Sideshow Collectibles, The Hobbit, Weta Collectibles on December 4, 2011 by