Actor-musician Sting and his wife, Trudie, (pictured right) were among the stars at the St. Pete/Clearwater Film Commission’s reception at NYC’s Tribeca Film Festival last weekend to promote the premiere of Sunlight Jr. The independent film, which was shot and produced entirely in St. Pete/Clearwater, stars Oscar-nominated Naomi Watts (pictured left) and Golden Globe-nominee Matt Dillon.
Sunlight Jr. is the latest on the growing list of recent films shot and produced in St. Pete/Clearwater, including the box-office hits Dolphin Tale, Magic Mike and Spring Breakers.
The resulting publicity from being known as the location for a popular film can increase visitation and create a depth to a destination’s brand that marketing can’t do alone. That’s the motivation behind a recent Visit St. Pete/Clearwater print ad that launched in New York Metro, one of NYC’s most widely-read daily newspapers. The full-page ad, which ran during the Tribeca Film Festival, intersperses shots of the destination with stills from locally-shot movies, tying the two together with a simple headline: “Sunlight. Camera. Action.”
The combination of timing, messaging and location made the ad a natural for the NYC market.
“New York is one of our greatest feeder markets, and it’s also one of the world’s film capitals,” said Mary DeLong, account director for BVK, the tourism bureau’s advertising agency of record. “So to have the Tribeca Film Festival taking place at the conclusion of our months-long wintertime marketing campaign made the movie-theme tie-in to the area even stronger,” she said.
“New Yorkers have been looking at buses and subways wrapped with our beach imagery all winter, and now they’re seeing yet another dimension to the area, one they might not have expected. And that’s a good thing for the brand.”
Plus, in NYC and elsewhere, there’s often a certain “cool factor” that plays into the decision making process when visitors decide where to vacation.
“We’ve been working to position the destination as fresh, different and unexpected, so being able to show yet another side gives it a depth and character that other destinations can’t claim,” said VSPC Deputy Director David Downing. “It’s yet another facet that sets us apart from our competitors.”
Recently, Downing hosted a UK journalist who was impressed with the beaches, but was “blown away” by the fact that Magic Mike was shot here.
“He insisted on going to the local bar where the movie exteriors were shot just so he could take a picture for his wife, who was a huge fan of the film,” Downing said. “It really gave him a completely different take on the ‘coolness’ of the area, and that will only play to our advantage.”
But the greatest and most immediate effect of movie tourism comes when people visit specifically because they saw something in a movie. And no movie has a greater power on that level than Dolphin Tale. The Warner Bros. hit, which premiered in 2011, brought a huge spike in visitors to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium at the time, and has provided a steady growth in attendance as the movie airs in other outlets, such as in-flight videos and on premium cable channels.
On a recent sunny day Rita Smith , who drove from out-of-state to visit Clearwater Marine Aquarium, confirmed that fact first hand.
“We could have gone anywhere,” she said as she stood in line with her excited grandchildren to buy tickets to the attraction. “But we chose this area just so the grandchildren could meet ‘Winter’. They saw the movie and they just fell in love with her,” she added.
Bottom line: Movies are bringing more than famous actors to St. Pete/Clearwater.
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