Winnipeg Free Press - Section F - - FRONT PAGE - By Russ Bynum

SAVANNAH, Ga. — When Hol­ly­wood films a hit movie or TV show in Ge­or­gia, hard­core fans can bring in mil­lions of tourism dol­lars when they come to get a first­hand look at the places they’ve seen on the screen. Lee Thomas, deputy com­mis­sioner in charge of the film di­vi­sion of the Ge­or­gia Depart­ment of Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment, said a boost in tourism is one of the great­est eco­nomic bonuses the state gets from pro­vid­ing scenery and back­drops to projects from De­liv­er­ance to The Walk­ing Dead.

The big­gest hits not only at­tract fans from over­seas, Thomas said, but of­ten route them to small-town lo­cales that wouldn’t see many tourists oth­er­wise. The state doesn’t track the im­pact in dol­lars, but some lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties have es­ti­mates. In New­ton County, where The Vam­pire Di­aries is filmed, di­rect spend­ing by tourists shot from US$47 mil­lion in 2002 to $107 mil­lion in 2012, ac­cord­ing to the U.S. Travel As­so­ci­a­tion.

“It’s cer­tainly not the case for ev­ery film or TV show,” Thomas said. “You don’t know which ones are go­ing to do it, but that can be some­thing that car­ries a town for years and years.”

Here are five of the most popular Ge­or­gia movie lo­ca­tions fans can see up close.

For­rest Gump park bench

OK, so the ac­tual park bench on which Tom Hanks sat com­par­ing life to a box of cho­co­lates in the 1994 film For­rest Gump was just a prop. But the pic­ture­post­card back­drop was the very real Chippewa Square in the cen­tre of Savannah’s down­town his­toric dis­trict. The square’s gnarled oaks hung with Span­ish moss and tow­er­ing mon­u­ment to Ge­or­gia’s found­ing fa­ther, Gen. James Ed­ward Oglethorpe, make it in­stantly rec­og­niz­able to fans of the Os­car-win­ning movie di­rected by Robert Ze­meckis. It’s still sought out by movie buffs 20 years later.

Walk­ing Dead Main Street

Beyond the apoc­a­lyp­tic ru­ins of At­lanta, sur­vivors of the zom­bie-in­fested coun­try­side in AMC’s TV se­ries The Walk­ing Dead find a refuge where a frag­ile so­ci­ety has walled it­self off inside the small town of Wood­bury. The town’s Main Street thor­ough­fare seen on TV is ac­tu­ally down­town Senoia, a city of 3,750 lo­cated 50 kilo­me­tres south of At­lanta. Un­dead fan-de­mo­nium has spawned a thriv­ing tourism trade in Senoia, where of­fi­cials say the num­ber of store­fronts has grown from six to 47 since the zom­bies ar­rived. The new busi­nesses in­clude a Wood­bury Shoppe that sells The Walk­ing Dead sou­venirs.

De­liv­er­ance still de­liv­ers

In many ways, the story of Ge­or­gia’s long-dis­tance ro­mance with Hol­ly­wood starts with the film­ing of De­liv­er­ance in the north Ge­or­gia moun­tains. The 1972 movie star­ring Burt Reynolds has been crit­i­cized for em­brac­ing hill­billy stereo­types. But the film’s stun­ning views of the Chat­tooga River are cred­ited with help­ing spawn a $20-mil­lion raft­ing and out­door sports in­dus­try that still draws vis­i­tors four decades later. De­liv­er­ance had such an im­pact, then-Gov. Jimmy Carter cre­ated a state film of­fice in 1973 to en­sure Ge­or­gia kept land­ing movie roles.

Set amid dystopian squalor and sci-fi op­u­lence, the Hunger Games se­ries wasn’t ex­actly geared to­ward de­pict­ing rec­og­niz­able land­marks from present-day At­lanta, where the se­quels Catch­ing Fire and Mock­ing­jay — Part 1 were filmed. The Swan House is one big ex­cep­tion. The 1923 At­lanta man­sion gets screen time in both movies as the home of Pres­i­dent Snow, played by Don­ald Suther­land. Film­mak­ers shot scenes both inside and out­side the Swan House, which is lo­cated on the 33-acre cam­pus of the At­lanta His­tory Cen­ter. The his­toric home’s mu­seum and grounds are open for tours daily.

Vam­pire Di­aries diner

Hard­core fans of The Vam­pire Di­aries TV se­ries on The CW know land­marks in the fic­tional town of Mys­tic Falls, Vir­ginia, are ac­tu­ally filmed in the small city of Cov­ing­ton, Ge­or­gia. One of the su­per­nat­u­ral se­ries’ most rec­og­niz­able lo­ca­tions has been the Mys­tic Grill, an of­fice build­ing trans­formed into the ex­te­rior of a restau­rant for the show. Dam­age from a 2012 fire left the build­ing va­cant un­til a cou­ple bought it and turned it into a real eatery named — you guessed it — the Mys­tic Grill. It opened in early 2014, a few months be­fore the fic­tional Mys­tic Grill was blown to smithereens in an ex­plo­sion at the end of the show’s fifth sea­son.


Zom­bies ap­pear in a scene from the AMC orig­i­nal se­ries, The Walk­ing Dead, in Senoia, Ga., where many scenes are filmed in the his­toric down­town area, trans­form­ing it into the fic­tional town of Wood­bury.

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