New Zealand's filmmaking industry has been marked by defined periods of activity and inactivity, local expression and international exposure. This can be observed to varying degrees in most non-Hollywood cinemas and developing film industries, though it has become particularly noticeable for New Zealand, which has made around 220 feature films, approximately 90 percent of these since only 1978.
In the prewar period New Zealand's film industry was a mixture of local innovation and foreign productions maximizing the country's location possibilities. Despite the economic differences between then and now, these factors remain significant to contemporary productions of computer-generated imaging (CGI) effects and spectacular action, with which New Zealand has become associated. Most strikingly, The Last Samurai (2003), The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (2005), and Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001–2003) and King Kong (2005) were filmed in New Zealand, utilizing its production capabilities and postproduction facilities, and bringing unprecedented global attention to this national cinema. There is, though, a danger that New Zealand will become known only for fantasy films, mythical narratives, and epic historical dramas depicting foreign lands. And while this one aspect of this national cinema is celebrated, locally financed films with more modest budgets, and stories with social and cultural relevance to the local communities, are struggling for overseas distribution. New Zealand's is, therefore, a cinema which is increasingly visible but simultaneously continuing to face the challenge of exporting many more of its films that have not been widely seen.