Before you dismiss the state of Oregon's plans to lure tourists to the state with its Historic Oregon Film Trail as just so much stardust, consider the case of Glasgow, Scotland resident Scott Gray.
Gray, a graphic designer, loves the movie "Stand By Me," which, as you might have heard, was partially filmed in the Brownsville area in the summer of 1985.
How much does he love the movie? His wife bought him an early gift for his 40th birthday, which comes up in November: A trip to Brownsville to participate in this year's Stand By Me Day, the town's annual celebration of the Rob Reiner film.
As Gray told our reporter: "How much does the movie 'Stand By Me' mean to me? Well, I'm 5,000 miles from home today."
Gray no doubt also had the opportunity to take in three new markers, placed in May by the Historic Oregon Film Trail staff and community members, that denote where scenes from the movie were shot.
I was thinking about Gray, who thoroughly charmed Brownsville residents during his stay, as I read Kristi Turnquist's story in Friday's edition of The Oregonian about the progress of the Historic Oregon Film Trail, launched about a year ago by the Oregon Governor's Office of Film and Television (better-known, perhaps, by the name Oregon Film) and the nonprofit Oregon Made Creative Foundation.
The idea, as Turnquist reported, is to place markers similar to the three in Brownsville at the sites where other made-in-Oregon movies were filmed.
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Tourism officials say that there's a well-documented link between well-loved movies and tourism: For example, Reese Witherspoon's 2014 movie "Wild," based on the Cheryl Strayed memoir, boosted traffic on the Pacific Coast Trail and in the area around the Bridge of the Gods. And, as they can tell you in Brownsville, the annual Stand By Me celebration attracts visitors from around the United States and elsewhere, including the town's new Scottish friend.
So, someone like Gray, with a deep love for "Stand By Me," might travel to Brownsville to take in all the festivities. But then our movie fan could hop into a car to visit, say, Astoria, where plaques commemorating the filming of "The Goonies," "Kindergarten Cop" and "Short Circuit" were placed in January. (You remember "Short Circuit," right? It's the 1986 comedy about a lovable robot which bears a somewhat remarkable resemblance to a later movie robot, "Wall-E." But perhaps that's a topic that can wait another day.) If you're in Astoria, a 20-minute drive will get you to the Hammond Marina, the site where Keiko the killer whale made his big jump near the end (spoiler alert!) of 1993's "Free Willy."
If you're in Astoria, well, it's a bit of a haul but not out of the question that our movie fan might be interested in driving down to Gleneden Beach State Recreation Park, which sports the first plaque in the series, one commemorating the filming of "Sometimes a Great Notion," the 1971 Paul Newman flick based on the Ken Kesey novel.
Officials with the film trail have eight signs up now and have plans in the next four months to add another dozen. Twenty signs is a good start, but officials told Turnquist that the plan is to get up to 50 or so signs — and, at that point, you could easily have a reasonable trail that could pull film fans from spot to spot around the state. Signs could celebrate movies like "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," "Animal House," "Paint Your Wagon" and "The General," the 1927 Buston Keaton classic that was filmed around Cottage Grove.
In fact, Oregon — because of the variety of different landscapes it offers and, of course, its proximity to California — has been a popular spot for filmmakers for more than a century: The first documented film shot in Oregon was a short silent film named "The Fisherman's Bride," filmed in 1909 in Astoria. No one remembers that flick now, of course, but it seems as if it would be worthy of mention along the state's movie trail.
The trail itself seems like a relatively low-risk investment of state tourism dollars that should offer modest but steady returns on that investment for years to come. It may not be as flashy as gorgeous animated films featuring giant bunnies hopping amid tulip fields and whales floating in the sky, but it's got some star power all its own. (mm)