Tourists flock to New­ton’s var­i­ous film­ing lo­ca­tions

The Covington News - - FRONT PAGE - SAN­DRA BRANDS sbrands@cov­news.com

Tele­vi­sion fans will de­scend on Cov­ing­ton this week­end as a show­ing of the premier of the fi­nal sea­son for The Vam­pire Di­aries on Fri­day, Oct. 21 and the Heat Gath­er­ing 2016 for In the Heat of the Night Satur­day, Oct. 22.

Fans help bring tourism dol­lars into New­ton County, Cov­ing­ton-New­ton County Cham­ber of Com­merce Di­rec­tor of Tourism, Jenny McDon­ald said. The Ge­or­gia Depart­ment t of Eco­nomic Devel­op­ment just re­leased the state’s 2015 tourism fig­ures.

In New­ton County, ac­cord­ing to the Cov­ing­ton-New­ton County Con­ven­tion and vis­i­tors Bureau, those num­bers showed that tourism dol­lars: sup­ported 1,140 jobs with a pay­roll of $23.38 mil­lion; gen­er­ated $125.60 mil­lion in di­rect tourist spend­ing, up $5.49 mil­lion from 2014; created $5.14 mil­lion in state tax rev­enues,

an in­crease of $470,000 over 2014; and gen­er­ated $3.70 mil­lion in lo­cal tax rev­enues, an in­crease of $100,000 over 2014 fig­ures. Ac­cord­ing to the re­port, each New­ton County house­hold re­ceived $245.63 in tax re­lief per house­hold as a re­sult of taxes gen­er­ated by tourism eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity.

And while film and tele­vi­sion re­lated tourism is just part of those fig­ures, McDon­ald said she has to re­port sta­tis­tics monthly to the state that in­clude the num­ber of vis­i­tors who stop by the Wel­come Cen­ter at 2101 Clark Street.

In Septem­ber, 2,800 vis­i­tors rep­re­sent­ing 25 states as well as Aus­tralia, Brazil, Canada, Eng­land, France, Ger­many or Nor­way came to Cov­ing­ton. “The num­bers have trended up, up, up for the last three years,” McDon­ald said. “We would prob­a­bly say 90 per­cent is be­cause of The Vam­pire Di­aries.

If the Septem­ber num­bers were im­pres­sive, July and Au­gust were out­stand­ing. In Au­gust, 3,698 vis­i­tors came to Cov­ing­ton from 26 states, Aus­tralia, Brazil, Bel­gium, Canada, Eng­land, Ger­many, In­dia, Nor­way, Scot­land, South Africa, Spain, Swe­den or Trinidad.

In July, 3,885 vis­i­tors ar­rived in Cov­ing­ton. McDon­ald an­tic­i­pates the num­ber of vis­i­tors will spike this month, pri­mar­ily, she said, be­cause the pre­miere of The Vam­pire Di­aries hap­pens in Oc­to­ber.

The num­bers McDon­ald said rep­re­sent only those who came to The Wel­come Cen­ter and signed the vis­i­tor’s book. “It would be fair to say, you could add an­other quar­ter or third more peo­ple,” she said.

The film and tele­vi­sion pro­duc­tion busi­ness has grown. Three tele­vi­sion series are be­ing filmed in New­ton County — The Vam­pire Di­aries, The Orig­i­nals and Sleepy Hol­low. Both A Case for Christ and Life of the Party just fin­ished film­ing in Cov­ing­ton. And lo­ca­tion scouts con­tinue to come to McDon­ald, in­ter­est­ing in film­ing here.

“I would say [dur­ing] the month of Septem­ber [there was] lots and lots of scout­ing,” McDon­ald said, adding she es­ti­mates she spent be­tween 25 and 30 hours ei­ther re­search­ing lo­ca­tions or show­ing scouts po­ten­tial film sites.

Scouts, she said, usu­ally don’t give no­tice that they are com­ing. They used to call, giv­ing about five min­utes no­tice of their ar­rival, she said, but now they just walk in. “They feel com­fort­able with the staff,” McDon­ald said.

Ac­cord­ing to one lo­ca­tion scout, who rec­om­mended that the cam­er­aready per­son in a small town north­east of At­lanta talk to McDon­ald, whose Cov­ing­ton-New­ton’s staff makes film­ing in the area run seam­lessly.

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