'Shot in the arm

Wednesday, March 1, 2006

The filming of "Killshot" in January wasn't exactly a box-office bonanza for the Cape Girardeau economy, but local officials are hoping that it leads to something more profitable.

In Hollywood, it's called exposure, dah-ling.

"Any residual effects are still up in the air," said Mayor Jay Knudtson. "But if the movie ends up being a box-office smash or even widely viewed, then it could mean so much more for Cape Gir-ardeau than what was actually spent here."

In other words, if "Killshot" is a big hit, it could cause film lovers passionate about the movie to want to visit the downtown streets where Diane Lane walked. Or dine in the restaurant where Mickey Rourke ate. Or get a glimpse of the dry dock where Thomas Jane's character worked.

"It could make people want to come to the community," Knudtson said. "It's hard to put a price tag on that."

When people visit communities, they stay in hotels, they eat in restaurants and buy goods and services from area stores, Knudtson said. That could keep boosting the bottom line long after Elmore Leonard's story disappears from the multiplexes.

Knudtson said he himself was probably guilty of underestimating how big a boon a movie could be. Then he heard about fiscal impacts on other communities, like where "Bridges of Madison County" and "Field of Dreams" were shot.

"I understand that those were probably anomalies," Knudtson said. "Those movies achieved tremendous box-office success. But if we even come close to that ... We really ought to embrace the opportunity."

So far, the actual financial impact is hard to pin down. The Weinstein Co., which is producing the movie, has submitted its expense reports to the state of Missouri so it can get tax credits, according to Missouri Film Commission director Jerry Jones.

But those numbers are currently being tabulated, he said, and are not available yet. He said his office has estimated the direct expenditures at $1 million to $1.5 million.

A production assistant for the filmmakers told Jones the movie cast and crew spent nearly $100,000 in petty cash costs alone, for things like the art department, set dressing, office supplies and other items they needed immediately.

"The impact was pretty good," Jones said. "But there are a lot of intangibles."

The numbers on city sales tax for the month of January also aren't in yet, said city finance director John Richbourg. He said those figures won't be available until April. If the $1 million estimate is close, though, Richbourg said that would mean $22,000 in sales tax revenue generated by the money spent by the filmmakers.

"Still," Richbourg said, "it will be hard to ever know what the true impact on sales tax the movie has. It won't show what part of the revenue came from the movie."

At Sidewalk Sandwich Co. in downtown Cape Girardeau, co-owner Andy Baranovic said that he saw "very little" in increased profits the week the movie was filmed nearby.

He said several curious residents stopped in -- and usually bought something -- but it didn't amount to much.

"It was up some that week," he said. "But we didn't get much of a push from it."

Buckner Brewing Co. did much of the catering for the film's crew and stars. Owner Phil Brinson said it was "real big" for his business, though.

"They spent quite a bit of money with us," Brinson said, declining give exact figures. "It was a big boost for us. It was a great week for us."

A wrap party was held at Port Cape Girardeau, where 120 to 150 people involved in the filming showed up.

"From a business standpoint, it was not bad by any means," said owner Doc Cain. "For us, the exposure we got was tremendous."

And Knudtson said there is a multiplying factor. For every $1 spent, Knudtson said, you can multiply that by 3 to 8 times in a community to gauge a more accurate impact to a community.

"So if you use the multiplier of 5, it could be as high as a $5 million investment," Knudtson said.

That's because the local business owners and workers who receive the money in pay will then turn around and spend that money elsewhere in the community, he said.

The exposure may also lead to other movies and television shows being filmed here, Knudtson said. It may sound far fetched, but Jim Dufek, a professor in the Department of Communications at Southeast Missouri State University, said he was already contacted by the Sci-Fi Channel about filming something here for a television mini-series because the producers of "Killshot" had told others in the industry about Cape Girardeau's hospitality.

While the Sci-Fi channel opted not to come for budgetary reasons, Dufek said Cape Girardeau probably wouldn't have been considered if not for the good word from the "Killshot" crew.

It's all been a positive experience so far, Knudtson said.

"It's already been good exposure for us. But if the movie reaches a big audience, it could get even better."

smoyers@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 137

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