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David Porter » Articles at Suite 101 » Movie-Inspired Tourism is a Growth Industry

Movie-Inspired Tourism is a Growth Industry

New York: Tourist Center or Film Set? - William Warby
As film audiences demand more technology and thrills, they also want high-quality locations, which they may visit later as tourists, imagining being filmed.

Many communities enjoy economic benefit from film-production: spending on hotels, restaurants, food suppliers, location fees and visitor interest, especially when the movie is a hit. People still flock to see Washington DC buildings where All The President’s Men (1976) was made, as much for the movie connections as for their political value.

Universal Studios in California and Florida have built a lucrative business on real or recreated film sets, with both guided tours of movie lots and theme-park type rides inspired by popular films, such as the Back to the Future ride. Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean ride actually inspired the movie franchise of the same name.

With technology, it’s possible actors will eventually be replaced, but in the meantime, movie and tourism industries are intertwined. DVD releases, Special Edition/3D versions, Directors’ Cuts promote interest; internet streaming and merchandising enhance awareness. People like to feel connected to movies.

Tourism Enhanced By Films

Tourism is the planet’s biggest industry; a film location creates extra jobs funded by tourist money. People love to look at spectacles, from more traditional/untraditionalperformances to basic sightseeing, to rubber- necking accidents and disasters. This human need to share vicariously, is a financial opportunity for others.

Brecht’s 1941 play Mother Courage is about a woman dragging a cart during the 30 Years War across Europe, selling equipment to whichever side she came across, without favour. Oh What A Lovely War, the 1963 polemic against the futility of WW1, referred to arms manufacturers selling to both sides. Catch 22, (1961 novel,1970 film) had a similar premise. So, it’s not new that entrepreneurs grab marketing opportunities on the backs of movies.

London-based Locality agency maintains a directory ‘providing inspirational locations for feature films, television productions, commercials, photographic shoots and events’. On the strength of this corner of the movie business, a strand of the local economy takes advantage of people with peculiar, particular and often expensive demands. This is like shops, cafes, restaurants, hotels, entertainment outlets which exist purely to serve sightseers, families on beaches, campers in the countryside.

Women on the road is an online resource for women who love to travel alone: ‘If you’re a film buff, movie tourism is a great way to see the world – your way’. For a world film tour they suggest Harlem (American Gangster, 2007), across to London (Notting Hill, 1999), then Ireland, Cahir Castle (Braveheart, 1995). The hotels stayed in could themselves be part of the movie tourism circuit.

European Movie Tourism

Then to France, to The Louvre, Paris (Da Vinci Code, 2006); to Venice, Italy (The Talented Mr Ripley, 1999); Vienna, Austria (The Third Man, 1949); Prague, Czech Republic (The Bourne Identity, 2002); Matmata, Tunisia (Star Wars, 1977); Wadi Rum, Jordan (Lawrence of Arabia, 1962); The Nile, Egypt (Death on the Nile, 1978, 2004).

On to Shaba National Park, Kenya (Out of Africa, 1985); over to Russia, Moscow’s Red Square (From Russia With Love, 1963); to India (for almost any Bollywood movie); Tokyo, Japan (Lost in Translation, 2003); Koh Phi Phi, Thailand (The Beach, 2000); Sydney, Australia (Mission Impossible 2, 2000); Mt Egmont, New Zealand (Lord of the Rings, 2001-3); Buenos Aires, Argentina (Evita, 1996), and back to the States via Las Vegas (Oceans Twelve, 2004).

This isn’t exhaustive of movies, but might be of energy. Cities frequently have many movies to their credit. For example, Venice, Italy hosted Orson Welles’ Othello (1952); Senso (1954); Death in Venice (1971); Don’t Look Now (1973); Woody Allen’s Everyone Says I Love You (1996); Blame It On the Bellboy (1995); The Comfort of Strangers (1991); The Story of Us (1999); William Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice (2004); and The Italian Job (2003). Do tourists visit Venice’s unique culture and history regardless of movie connection?

Locations Exploited by Films

There are companies who operate specialised movie-feature tours, such as Harry Potter Tours in England and Scotland; Star Wars Tour in Tunisia,; Sound of Music Tours in Salzburg, Austria; Sex and the City Tour in New York and James Bond Tours in London.

The Count of Monte Cristo promotes travel & adventure film tourism in Malta. Kindergarten Cop (1990) was shot in Astoria, Oregon, and filmmakers tidied up the school and gave work to locals, teachers and students. So, there was benefit for the inconvenience of being taken over by a film crew. This was an experience partly shared by residents of Kefalonia in Greece, when Captain Correli’s Mandolin was shot in 2001. Those who owned shops and businesses were paid to stay closed and do nothing!

Christopher Campbell, writing in March 2010 on Cinematical sparked debate about film location tourism, asking how many people went to Astoria, Oregon to ‘see the Goonies’s (1985) house or New York Katz’s Deli where Meg Ryan faked it in When Harry Met Sally (1989). How many vacation in New York because of how it looks in the opening montage of Manhattan (1978)?’

He wondered about movies’ potential to function as tourism ads. Do people visit New York thinking it’s a film set because of myriad of films, all or part-shot on its streets? King Kong (1933) tops the list with the world’s then tallest building; Miracle on 34th Street (1947); On the Waterfront (1954); An Affair to Remember (1957) which inspired Sleepless in Seattle (1993); Marilyn Monroe’s skirt-blowing scene in The Seven Year Itch (1955); West Side Story (1961); Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961); Midnight Cowboy (1969); The French Connection (1971); The Godfather (1972); Dog Day Afternoon (1975); Taxi Driver (1976); Saturday Night Fever (1977); Annie Hall (1977); The Wiz (1978); Fame (1980); Escape From New York (1981); The Muppets Take Manhattan (1984); Wall Street (1987); Big (1988) and apocalyptic Independence Day (1996), all place New York as the centre of both film and wider universe. Even Waterworld (1995) has an underwater glimpse.

Are people disappointed when they see the real scene? Are they more impressed by a landmark (like Stonehenge, Eiffel Tower, White House, Ayers’ Rock, the Alps) because it’s featured in a movie than for its own artistic, cultural, historical merits?

Campbell also asked: ‘Inversely, any movies made you NOT want to vacation somewhere? Has City of God (2002) turned you off Rio? Did Robocop (1987) keep you from Detroit? Has every film shot in LA made you avoid the place?’

Of course, it’s unanswerable. While movies are made, they have to shot somewhere. Somebody always benefits financially, and why not?

First published on Suite 101, 10 September 2010.

Photo: New York: Tourist Center or Film Set? – William Warby

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