HomeCultureTake a Southern Movie Tour

Take a Southern Movie Tour

See the sites of Hollywood South this summer.
by Rebecca Lynn Aulph

Instead of staying home and watching movies and television this summer, get out of the house and explore them. Many beloved dramas and films hail from the South, from “The Walking Dead”  to “21 Jump Street” and “The Hunger Games.” With the development of Hollywood South have come movie tour companies that exist in both Atlanta and New Orleans. These new ventures help viewers see the film industry in a new way and maybe even see a few celebrities if they’re lucky.

Southern movie tour companies wouldn’t exist without camera crews and their affinity for the South, due in part to good ‘ole Southern hospitality. According to Jennifer Lotz, manager of communications and public relations for the New Orleans Convention & Visitors Bureau, “The city of New Orleans Office of Film and Video does a superb job of working with film crews,” she says. “They serve as an excellent resource for film crews, and their site is a great source of information, listing ways to connect with the local community to find anything from caterers to production assistants to film sites.”

Wendell Pierce from the popular HBO series “Treme” and other actors, like Brad Pitt, Sandra Bullock and John Goodman, even call the city home, as do more than 200 movie productions. No matter where you live in the city and “no matter where you shoot, you’ll experience Louisiana’s legendary culture and the inimitable joie de vivre of our fun-loving, supportive citizens,” says Jonathan Ray, who runs Original New Orleans Movie Tours, the city’s first and only movie tour.

Of course, the climate and tax credits also make the South a great place to film. “Even if a movie is not supposed to be set in New Orleans, our architecture throughout the city allows for a director to create the atmosphere or time period desired throughout certain areas of the city,” says Lotz. “Also, it tends to be warmer in New Orleans for most months of the year, so a director can create a season without causing discomfort to the actors or actresses involved in the scene.”

Same goes for Georgia, which, like the state of Louisiana, offers excellent tax credits for filmmakers and just launched a new movie website, www.ComeTourGeorgia.com. “ComeTourGeorgia.com is an opportunity to help drive tourism to Georgia by showcasing filming locations across the state,” says Lee Thomas, director of the Georgia Film, Music and Digital Entertainment division. “’Catching Fire,’ the sequel to ‘The Hunger Games,’ opens in theaters on November 22. Not only did this production create hundreds of jobs in Georgia, but it is anticipated that the momentum generated by Lionsgate’s billion dollar franchise will benefit our tourism industry by bringing fans to Georgia.”

Head television fanatic and co-owner of Atlanta Movie Tours, Patti Davis puts the relationship between the Peachtree State and the film industry in perspective. “Georgia has everything any filmmaker could want,” she says. “We have mountains, ocean, lakes, plains, forests, cities and small towns. There are waterfalls, deserted stretches of beach with wild horses and, of course, we have the friendliest people in the world living here.”

The added bonus is the 30 percent tax credit each production company receives for filming in Georgia. Davis says AMC’s “The Walking Dead” is to thank for movie tours starting in Atlanta, but the company has no shortage of film locations to work with. Atlanta is also where Margaret Mitchell wrote “Gone With the Wind,” Tyler Perry got his start, classics like “Driving Miss Daisy” and “Teen Wolf” and more recent movies “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” and “Remember the Titans” were filmed.

The idea for Atlanta Movie Tours came about when Davis and friend Carrie Sagel Burns (pictured together above) went to dinner one night in early 2012 and realized their shared a love for “The Walking Dead.” “Carrie had already started taking friends around to see the locations, so I suggested we do this for a living,” says Davis. “We hear from a lot of people in town that this was just what Atlanta needed, and we are so thrilled to showcase the city we both love.”

“The Walking Dead” brings the most tourists to the company and, possibly, the city of Atlanta. The correlation isn’t surprising considering that the show is one the most-watched in cable history and continues to set ratings records.

Atlanta Movie Tours’ “Big Zombie Tour Part 1″ takes visitors to many of the show’s filming locations, like the hospital where it all started and Jackson Street Bridge, along with a few from films “Zombieland,” “The Collection” and “Scary Movie 5.” Part 2 travels to the Zombie Arena, season two finale waterfall and Sportsman’s Deer Cooler.

Aboard a 10-passenger van, those on an Original New Orleans Movie Tour will watch video clips on the television monitor while traveling to filming locations for “21 Jump Street,” “Green Lantern,” “The Expendables,” “Interview With The Vampire,” “JFK,” “The Pelican Brief,” “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” “A Streetcar Named Desire,” Elvis’s “King Creole” and more. Popcorn also flows freely during the two-hour tour.

Just as “The Walking Dead” has put Georgia on the TV map, many people travel to New Orleans to see the real-life site of Tennessee Williams’ “Streetcar.” “The movie itself is so classic,” says Lotz. “Tennessee Williams lived in New Orleans for many years and used the city as an inspiration. He often dined at Galatoire’s at the same table and would drink his favorite cocktail at the Carousel Bar, located within the Hotel Monteleone. Many people travel here to get a taste of what may have inspired this literary legend.”

New Orleans and Atlanta aren’t the only ones with movie tours in the South. North Carolina has Hunger Games fan tours, and Savannah Movie Tour company highlights films like “Cape Fear,” “Forrest Gump” and “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.”

Tours book quickly, so be sure to plan ahead and purchase tickets in advance. New Orleans tours are approximately two hours long, and there are two pick-up times daily (9:45 a.m. and 12:45 p.m.) from River’s Edge Restaurant at 801 Decatur St. Tickets are $45 dollars for adults and $29 dollars for children ages 4-12. In Atlanta, The Big Zombie Tour Part One occurs every Saturday from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Tickets are $45. The Big Zombie Tour Part Two takes place every Sunday from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Tickets are $65.

Photo credits, from top: New Orleans movie tour group and Mark Ruffalo filming “Now You See Me” courtesy of Original New Orleans Movie Tours; Patti Davis and Carrie Sagel Burns and “The Walking Dead” tour location courtesy of Atlanta Movie Tours; and Jonathan Ray with Morgan Freeman courtesy of Original New Orleans Movie Tours. 

To find out what’s filming in New Orleans now, visit Original New Orleans Movie Tours’ blog. To see an entire filmography for New Orleans, dating back to 1938, click here. For more on Georgia’s film locations, click here

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