Hollywood brings fame, fortune to Hawaii


HONOLULU -- Hawaii is getting a double shot in the arm from Hollywood these days, as movies such as "Pearl Harbor" expose the state to new and repeat visitors and production companies spend millions in the state making films.

Last year, companies filming movies ("Pearl Harbor," "Jurassic Park III," "To End All Wars" and "Windtalkers") and television shows in Hawaii spent $136 million in the state, up from $98 million in 1999.

Movies made in Hawaii this year are "Planet of the Apes," "Dragonfly," "Final Fantasy" and "The X-4 Project."

But the film office, an agency under the state's Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, has no predictions on what the spending figures will be at year's end.

Also, movies are akin to free marketing for anyone involved with the travel business to Hawaii, according to those interviewed for this report.

The notion that movies and television will bring more visitors to Hawaii is about as sure as a warm day here, said David Preece, vice president of the North America division of the Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau. "Movies in particular have established a certain exotic interest and imagery in people's minds that have had a lasting effect on people's desire to come to Hawaii," he said.

Oahu Visitors Bureau executive director Les Enderton said, "It's difficult to measure the impact, but I think the film industry has a tremendous effect on the travel industry. I was [recently] in Japan and every taxi had a promotion on it for 'Pearl Harbor' -- and that was Japan, of all places."

Agents and wholesalers bringing visitors to Hawaii agree that movies with a plot based in Hawaii expose the state to millions of potential visitors, but they have mixed feelings on the effectiveness of using movies like "Pearl Harbor" in marketing plans.

Ed Hogan, founder of Pleasant Hawaiian Holidays, said he saw "Pearl Harbor" and found it "dramatic and interesting," but he didn't think spending the money on a marketing tie-in was justifiable for the potential return.

"The movie was very enjoyable, but the cost of some of these [marketing tie-ins] gets absurd," said Hogan, adding he would rather spend money in marketing partnerships with Hawaiian musicians and the Hawaiian fashion industry.

But others see the opportunity for profit.

For example, Paradise Travel of Mount Prospect, Ill., devised a marketing plan with Funjet Vacations to ride on the coattails of "Pearl Harbor."

The two worked out a deal with a movie theater company in the Chicago area; movie previews at the company's theaters direct viewers to fill out a form in the lobby to be entered into a drawing for a free Hawaii vacation.

In the lobby, moviegoers find Funjet and Paradise Travel information on the free trip, and the names of all those who sign up are given to Paradise Travel as potential customers.

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