Blockbuster movies create booms for tourism — and headaches for locals

Italian Americans are forever battling mafia stereotypes. New Zealanders are sick and tired of Tolkien tourists. Italian cops are chasing people out of Rome’s Trevi Fountain.

Blockbuster hits like “The Godfather” and “The Lord of the Rings” can bring a massive tourism influx to the places where they’re filmed. But headaches often follow.

In 1996, Mel Gibson’s historical action film “Braveheart” led to a 300% increase in visitors to The National Wallace Monument in Scotland. Similarly, the “Harry Potter” film franchise caused tourism to increase at least 50% to every U.K. location where the movies were filmed, according to an article in the Journal of Travel Research in 2006.

“Film tourism” as it is known, can boost local economies and fill in gaps caused by seasonal tourism lulls. But there’s often a downside.

Negative connotations
Regarded as one of the greatest films of all time — “The Godfather” — created a unique set of problems for the places featured in the movie.

Part of the film was set in the Sicilian village of Corleone, where the character of mafia boss Vito Corleone, played by Marlon Brando, was born and raised before immigrating to New York City.

Artist Maria D. Rapicavoli, who studied the place called Corleone, said many tourists go in search of “The Godfather” atmosphere but leave disappointed when they don’t meet any mafiosi.

“Not sure what they are looking for — maybe for men holding guns in the street or … women wearing black?”.

Rapicavoli examined her experiences there in an exhibit entitled “If You Saw What I Saw,” writing that Corleone is a place where people “play the role of actors in front of an audience of demanding tourists as if their town were a permanent film set.”

In a description of the exhibit, she recounted people she met: a Polish tourist looking for “The Godfather’s village,” a Canadian who was happy to be in a “real mafia atmosphere” and a tourist guide who gave lessons about the Italian mob.

Ironically, the movie wasn’t even shot in Corleone, but in the Sicilian villages of Savoca and Forza d’Agro.

The popularity of “The Godfather,” as well as “Goodfellas” and “The Untouchables,” has also caused problems in the United States. Some argue those movies unfairly stereotype Italian Americans as violent and misogynistic criminals to the millions of viewers who watched them.

Reckless behavior
“The Hangover” and its depictions of drug-addled, wild bachelor parties may be encouraging reckless behavior in Las Vegas. People try to mimic famous scenes in the movie, including sneaking up to the roof and asking where to find live tigers, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

People still quote the famous line “Did Caesar live here?” in the main lobby of Caesars Palace, a hotel representative. Others request to stay in the “Hangover Suite” — though those portions of the movie were shot on a film set.

Tour packages and recreated sets in Las Vegas let fans of the trilogy relive the movie without the mayhem.

Across the Atlantic Ocean, film fans are defying local laws.

Since the release of famed Italian film director Federico Fellini’s “La Dolce Vita” in 1960, inspired tourists have emulated the movie’s most memorable scene by climbing into Rome’s Trevi Fountain. To this day — some 60 years later — Italian authorities continue to grapple with overzealous fans, some of whom have proudly worn gowns and fur stoles as they waded around the fountain.

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