Tennessee Lands Leading Role in Film Production
Capri Movie Theater in Downtown Shelbyville, TN
The Capri movie theater in downtown Shelbyville in Bedford County, TN has been open for decades and continues to show first run movies.
It is true Hannah Montana: The Movie is set in Tennessee, which also happens to be the home state of its teenage mega-star Miley Cyrus. But with movie magic able to turn anywhere into Montana’s hometown of Crowley Corners, the decision on where to shoot the film came down largely to dollars. For a while, Louisiana looked like it would be the victor. But then Tennessee went into high gear, wooing the film’s executives with a relentless courtship that showcased the state’s financial incentives and the abundance of homegrown technical talent. The frantic effort was worth it, says Perry Gibson, head of the Tennessee Film Entertainment and Music Commission, who believes word-of-mouth from the Walt Disney Films production will bring more movies and also benefit the state in ways that have nothing to do with movies. “Bringing Hannah Montana to the state was one of the biggest booms to the industry we have had for awhile,” she says. “We see some real impact on tourism in the future. It really demonstrates how terrific our terrain and rivers and farms are and the beauty of this state.” That type of success is helping to cultivate the state’s film and television culture. East Tennessee, where Scripps Networks in based, is an epicenter for cable television productions that include cooking, gardening and home repair programming. The industry infrastructure in Middle Tennessee could get a big boost with Browns Creek Media Village, a state-of-the-art film and television production studio, higher-education film school and an arts and entertainment venue concept that has been proposed for the Tennessee Fairgrounds in Nashville. While Hannah Montana has garnered much attention, the state has a long history of making movies. Memphis, in particular, has repeatedly caught the industry’s eye. In 2009, Movie Maker magazine named it the eighth best movie-making city in the country. Memphis has played a role in several notable films, including The Firm, The Client, The People vs. Larry Flint, 21 Grams and Walk the Line, which included several locations across Tennessee. In 2005, the city was dubbed the “lucky charm” of the Sundance Film Festival when Memphis-filmed Hustle & Flow and Forty Shades of Blue won prizes. That pedigree has helped spawn other business, such as Beale Street Studios in Memphis, which provides production and post-production work for corporate and other clients. But the city knows the business’ frustrations, too. In 2004, CBS gave up a chance to film an Elvis miniseries there because incentives made Louisiana cheaper, even with the cost to construct a fake Graceland. The decision helped galvanize the state into offering its own incentives, which give up to 32 percent rebates on what filmmakers spend in state. The result has helped attract several productions, chief among them, Hannah Montana, Gibson says. Productions that come to Tennessee benefit from the availability of talented labor, low cost of living, cooperative leaders and amazing landscapes. “We have everything but the ocean and the Antarctic,” Gibson says.