Thursday, July 23, 2009

Lights, Cameras, Backlash

Whether or not it makes economic sense, Hollywood's invasion of the American hinterland, in search of taxpayer handouts, is driven on by a second factor -- the thrill some Americans get from any brush with celebrity. So star struck are some of us, apparently, that we'll gladly pick our own pockets to help pay the freight for Hollywood fat cats and wealthy film studios, just to say that a "star" came to town or that we served as props in some direct-to-DVD box office flop.

But the thrill seems to be wearing off in Las Vegas, New Mexico, a town that's become a magnet for movie-makers thanks to a retro ambiance and generous tax breaks offered by the state. A backlash appears to be building there and elsewhere against arrogant Hollywood invaders and the inconveniences they bring. Not everyone enjoys the fruits of the economic windfall they purportedly bring the state. And some "townies" have gone from welcoming to resentful.

Reports the L.A. Times:

"The filming has brought in a surge of money, but it has also brought tension. Store owners in Las Vegas, complaining that filming hurts their businesses, have clashed with film supporters, even calling for a moratorium on all productions.

As more and more movie production leaves California, sensible small towns across the country are getting a taste of Hollywood glitz -- and it isn't always sweet. "They act like they own the town," said Bob Korte, the owner of Korte's Furniture and Bicycles, who helped lead the effort in Las Vegas.

Other towns in New Mexico have moved to control filming, including Village of Los Ranchos de Albuquerque, which banned production after neighbors complained about disruption when several television shows filmed there."

It remains to be seen whether the backlash will spread to the 40 other states that have jumped on the Hollywood welfare bandwagon, each vying with the others to see who can pour more taxpayer money into the pockets of movie moguls. So strong is the public's fascination (or is it "obsession"?) with celebrity that it may take years before the thrill wears off elsewhere -- and average Americans begin to seriously question whether subsidizing movie-makers makes dollars or sense.

Until then, Hollywood will squeeze everything it can out of the suckers out here in "fly-over country."

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