MADRAS — Production started here this week on a Hollywood film — and that means financial action during an otherwise sleepy time of year for visitation.
On Tuesday, a flagger moved cars on U.S. Highway 97 past Sonny’s Motel, which was selected for shooting the heart of “Management,” a romantic comedy featuring Jennifer Aniston, Steve Zahn and Woody Harrelson. Security personnel, including officers from the Bend and Madras police departments, kept onlookers off the property as traffic crawled past the site, where shooting is expected to last through Nov. 21.
A cast of 10 to 15 actors and actresses, and more than 100 crew members — spending money on everything from lodging to food to set supplies and fun — are contributing to Central Oregon’s $498-million-per-year tourism economy, said Holli Van Wert, the executive director for the Madras-Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce. Cast and crew members have inquired about golf, rafting, spa and resort options in Central Oregon for days they’re not shooting, she said.
Already, business has increased in Madras at local grocery, hardware and liquor stores, and hotels are nearly full with the film crew and a Department of Corrections convention in town this week, Van Wert said.
“The really cool part is that they’re regular people who do the same things we do when we visit a place for three weeks,” Van Wert said.
This year, the out-of-state film industry will contribute $48 million directly to the state’s economy, including spending on hotels, restaurants and other services, said Steve Oster, the executive director of the Oregon Film & Video Office, based in Portland.
The production crew wouldn’t have chosen Madras or Oregon without state incentives, Oster said.
The state will reimburse film companies for 20 percent of its Oregon-based goods and services and 16.2 percent of its production payroll. The incentives are less than other states offer, but Oregon’s lack of a sales tax, its proximity to Hollywood and the declining value of the dollar for shooting films in Vancouver, British Columbia, make filmmaking in Oregon a more affordable option, Oster said.
Film producers also were attracted by the ability to represent three locations on the big screen — Kingman, Ariz., Baltimore and Aberdeen, Wash. — by shooting in Portland and Madras.
“Oregon’s diverse topography filled the bill, so they could do all the filming in one place,” Oster said. “It turned into a cost savings for them.”
The film crew booked 35 rooms for two weeks at Hoffy’s Motel at the north end of town, said Allen Huang, the owner and manager. The hotel has 98 rooms.
“We would have nothing this time of year except (wildlife) hunters,” Huang said. “It’s helping us a lot.”
At the 47-room Best Western Madras Inn, a combination of the film, the Department of Corrections conference and a Native American tribal summit has filled the hotel’s rooms, said Clifford Reynolds, general manager.
“It all happened at once,” Reynolds said. “This is great for the community.”
The 72-room Inn at Cross Keys Station, which opened Oct. 1 across from Safeway, could not release its occupancy. But the film crew had booked 28 rooms for 21 days prior to the shooting, according to previous reports in The Bulletin.
Local retailers Ace Hardware and Erickson’s Thriftway Madras are picking up film crew business, too.
Erickson’s will have 48 doughnuts ready for pickup by 6 a.m. before the store opens, said Dan Walston, store manager.
“It gets our name out there,” he said. “It helps us if we’re willing to work with them, we might pick up more business along the way.”
The film crew also purchased signs and materials from Ace Hardware, located just south of Erickson’s downtown. In return, the store gave the crew Ace Hardware hats, said Candra Philibert, assistant manager.
“They were excited,” she said. “They said they’d be back in for other items. We gave them the names of local businesses.”
Madras Liquor sold between 12 and 15 bottles of higher-end liquor Monday night, said store clerk Miles Pattenaude.
“We had quite a bit of crew members carrying walkie-talkies and badges,” he said. “It kept me on my toes.”
The added hype from film production comes on top of national exposure received when Madras’ Jacoby Ellsbury helped the Boston Red Sox win the World Series in October.
The movie shows that the spotlight can shine on Madras itself, said Tim Murnane, a local resident who moved to Madras two years ago with family from Portland.
Because the city does not have a movie theater, residents will need to drive to Bend or Redmond to watch “Management” when it’s released in 2008, Murnane noted.
“I almost want to keep it quiet,” Murnane said. “I don’t want to see the city overdeveloped, but it needs more things to do.”
Madras resident Al Boettcher thought the movie hype was overrated.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Boettcher said. “I just can’t see why they have to block the highway. It seems awful funny to me that they would stop traffic on the road to shoot a movie. At least it will put some money in the economy.”