On Location

Making your business the star of the big screen could mean big bucks and local exposure.
Magazine Contributor
2 min read

This story appears in the December 2003 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

When Steven and Scott Parker rented out Watson Drugs, their 1950s-era drugstore and soda fountain, to the Hollywood film community, it was more than a favor. For this father-and-son team, permitting Tom Hanks and his crew to film the 1996 movie That Thing You Do! in their Orange, California, establishment was a way to keep their business alive.

No strangers to filming, Steven, 43, and Scott, 60, had allowed both TV and film to be shot within their vintage walls since Scott purchased the store in the 1970s. "When [Hanks' crew] filmed here, we were having a really hard time keeping our heads above water," says Scott. The rental fee paid by the production helped get Watson Drugs over the rough spot. More important, the film drummed up sustained interest in the store and the local community. Today, wide-eyed tourists regularly visit Watson Drugs to the tune of more than $4 million in annual sales.

Business owners may think filming means nothing but inconvenience-noise, bright lights and parking restrictions or street closures that drive customers away. But in reality, say experts, filming usually injects major funds into a local economy. When Planet of the Apes was filmed in the Ridgecrest, California, area, it contributed $3.4 million to the region.

To minimize inconvenience, businesses should communicate with film crews and local film commissions before filming starts, says Kathleen A. Milnes, senior vice president at the Entertainment Industry Development Corp. (EIDC) in Hollywood, California. When crews want to film in the Los Angeles area, they first go to the EIDC, which notifies the community and works to alleviate any concerns.

What if Hollywood knocks on your door wanting to film in your store? Do your homework, says Ray Arthur, director of the Ridgecrest Regional Film Commission. Work out a deal to secure specifics like times for crews to start and finish, with a payment schedule for overtime and other contingencies. Local film commissions can help you cover your bases and ensure the filming is a good experience. "Here's a group of 100 to 200 people who, drop money on the ground for a few days and leave," says Arthur. "You couldn't ask for a better industry to come to your town."

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