France hopes to lure tourists via Hollywood

Whether it is through the soaring grace of the Eiffel Tower or the breathtaking beauty of Provence, France is hoping to lure tourists by persuading Hollywood to shoot more films there.

An unprecedented alliance of French film and local government officials descended on Los Angeles last week to attend the Locations Trade Show, an annual fair that puts potential film sites in the movie industry’s shop window.

The rewards for regions that are successful in attracting a big-budget film production to shoot in their backyards are immense, according to Patrick Lamassoure, MD of the French film commission, Film France.

“The direct income from foreign film productions in France was worth â,¬100-million in 2005 and between â,¬75-million and â,¬80-million in 2006,” Lamassoure said, adding that 50% to 60% of the money came from Hollywood.

Regional authorities in France are also increasingly aware of the benefits of attracting the film world, Lamassoure said. Nineteen companies and institutions from France were attending the Los Angeles trade fair, whereas only three years ago there were none.

“A feature-length Hollywood production can generate around â,¬300 000 a day to a local economy,” Lamassoure said. “So you can imagine the benefits a month-long shoot can have.”

The economic effects of a Hollywood film can be felt long after the camera crews have packed up their trailers and departed.

The Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur region in south-east France hosted a 200-strong film crew during filming of the Ridley Scott-directed film A Good Year in 2005, starring Russell Crowe.

Although the movie was a box-office flop upon its release late last year, its visually ravishing portrayal of the Luberon countryside ensured that tourists have already begun asking for the whereabouts of the film’s location.

“Cinema is a powerful tool for promoting tourism in our region,” said Olivier Della Suda, the manager of the Provence tourism board, which seeks to attract big-spending American visitors in ever-greater numbers.

A recent study of tourists in France found that 62% had been “clearly” influenced by films when deciding their choice of holiday destination, according to Lamassoure.

With 76-million foreign visitors every year, France is the number-one destination for tourists, an industry worth about $35-billion ever year, Lamassoure said. The tourism sector’s involvement gives the French film industry valuable marketing dollars, Lamassoure said.

However, France still faces strong opposition from other European countries that offer more generous tax incentives to studios, Lamassoure said.

“There are films which are supposed to be made in France and which go to our neighbours for purely tax reasons,” he said, citing the example of Steven Spielberg’s thriller Munich, which saw the Hungarian capital, Budapest, transformed into Paris. — AFP

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