Tuesday, December 4, 2012

"Rural" in the movies a fiscal boon to a Georgia town

The headline for Robbie Brown's NYT story of a few days ago was "A Georgia Main Street Paved in Red Carpet," and the dateline is Senoia, Georgia, population 1738.

Brown writes of Senoia:
This is the quaint, small town that plays a quaint, small town on television and in the movies. Hollywood filmmakers come here when they need a Mayberry backdrop or a row of mom-and-pop storefronts. 
Senoia has been the site of movies such as "The Walking Dead" and "Drop Dead Diva" (which I admit to never having heard of!), "Sweet Home Alabama" and "Footloose."  It also provided the visual setting for Southern classics like "Fried Green Tomatoes" and "Driving Miss Daisy," which means Hollywood found the place several decades ago.  Senoia is just 25 miles from Atlanta, but a century away in appearance.

This has been good for the town in many ways, "with film crews bringing in money and publicity," permitting the town to "avoid[ ] the empty downtowns and shrinking tax bases that plague many rural towns. ... Property tax revenues have risen even though the city has lowered its tax rate."  Scott Tigchelaar, the president of Raleigh Studios Atlanta, a division of an international production company, is quoted:
Its been like turning on a fire hose of cash.
I hope Tigchelaar means this cash has been a boon for the town, and not only for his production company.  Brown reports that revenue brought into Georgia through filming soared to $879 million, up from $260 million in 2008.  Senoia doesn't charge filmmakers to use the locale, but counts on raising revenue through increased sales when film crews are in town.

Brown reports that Senoia's population has nearly doubled since 2000. While the town had only seven stores on mainstreet in 2006, it now has 49. But a lot of the property is now owned by outsiders like Tigchelaar, and others with big bucks to invest, including country music star Zac Brown. Journalist Brown calls the result "a Normal Rockwell setting for the newly rich." And Senoia, whose motto is "The Perfect Setting. For Life.," is trying to attract "empty-nesters from Atlanta and its wealthy suburbs" who seek the "simplicity of small-town living, with a Hollywood twist."

These changes have not pleased all residents.  Wayne Peavey, who owns an antique store, calls Senoia's growth " a double-edged sword," continuing: 
It’s good for business. But it’s not the small town I moved to.

No comments: