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Shooting stars: There’s gold in them thar films

Post Independent Photo/Jim Noelker
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GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” Major motion picture locations, like the “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” shoot staged in Glenwood Canyon last week, mean big money ” and not just for the outrageously-paid actors who star in them and the studios that produce them.

“In 2002, $30 million in film industry revenue was generated in Colorado,” said Glenwood Springs resident Dan Hugo, an actor and filmmaker who serves on the advisory board of the Colorado Film Commission.

True, “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” headliners Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt make millions for appearing in one film.



But, all skewed perspective aside, when a production company selects a film location, the community around it profits.

“Everybody benefits,” said Hugo. “You name it ” local hotels, restaurants, shops, businesses ” and even if citizens aren’t directly affected, when a film location crew comes to town, their participation in that community’s economy is reflected in tax revenue.”



Just ask Bob Smith, editor of The Daily Independent in Ridgecrest, Calif. The central California town has become a popular spot for film location shoots ” infusing town coffers with millions of dollars.

Smith said large segments of “Planet of the Apes,” were shot near Ridgecrest, bringing in a whopping $3.4 million to the town’s businesses.

Smith added the just-released film “Hidalgo” also shot scenes near Ridgecrest. The tally for the film’s six-week shoot?

“More than $1.8 million came into the community,” said Smith.

Is it worth it?

Marianne Virgili, executive director of the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association, worked closely with the “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” crew. The shoot caused the closure of the Hanging Lake rest area while crews set up the shoot, and slowed traffic on Interstate 70 during filming days ” but Virgili said it was all worth it.

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“This is a fantastic opportunity for Glenwood,” said Virgili, “What it does for our community in terms of exposure and economic boost is tremendous.”

But not everyone was thrilled with the arrival of Hollywood in the canyon.

Betty Delaney of Glenwood Springs was dismayed last week to discover she couldn’t access the Hanging Lake trailhead for nearly two weeks.

“It’s a beautiful hike in the winter, but I can’t get to it,” she said.

Jim Thinnes, the acting district ranger for White River National Forest in Eagle, said the trail itself wasn’t closed during the shoot, but because the Colorado Department of Transportation closed the rest area, getting to the trail would be “pretty tough. You’d have to come up over the Flat Tops,” he said.

Thinnes said the Forest Service wouldn’t have approved the trailhead closure if the film crew had requested a shoot during the Fourth of July when thousands of people would be affected.,

Noting that the National Forest advocates multiple use, Thinnes said “during winter, maybe a dozen people or so access that trail. It’s pretty icy and snowy. We figured displacing the dozen or so people who hike in the area for a few weeks was a better alternative and allowed for that multiple use of the forest.”

Thinnes said the Forest Service charged the film production company a set fee of $4,000 to access the rocks high above the Hanging Lake tunnels, where much of the shoot took place.

Fees, public and private

Tom Boas of Glenwood Springs is a driver for Colorado Mountain Express. He expressed concern last week when he read that the Colorado State Patrol would be slowing traffic on I-70 through Glenwood Canyon.

“My business is all about making sure tourists can get here quickly and easily,” Boas said. “I rely on that road to be free of delays.”

Nancy Shanks of CDOT said the Colorado State Patrol and CDOT worked together to make the impacts to travelers as minimal as possible. She said delays on the four shooting days ran five to seven minutes at most.

Shanks said although neither CDOT nor the CSP charge location crews fees for use, both entities are reimbursed in full for all expenses related to location shoots.

“We consider it a benefit to Colorado’s overall economy,” she said. “So we work with film production companies to benefit Colorado as a whole.”

Since Glenwood Canyon is located on public land, no private landowners benefited directly from the “Smith” shoot.

But when location scouts come calling locally, money can be made.

“There are set fees for highways and national forest,” said Greg Poschman, an Aspen-based filmmaker, “but private homes and land are always negotiable.”

He said Roaring Fork Valley houses can fetch anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000 a day, depending on how extravagant the home might be.

“It’s not a significant windfall unless you happen to own a multi-million dollar house in the first place,” Poschman said.

Open pastures and other types of private land run from $200 to $300 a day or more, Poschman said.

For Hugo, a film crew’s use of public or private land is well worth it.

“The value and the benefit to the community as a whole just can’t be overemphasized,” he said.

Contact Carrie Click: 945-8515, ext. 518

cclick@postindependent.com


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