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Tourism: County will renew its pitch to movie makers

By Charles Swenson
For the Observer

Movies are back in the picture for Georgetown County tourism promotion. The county’s Tourism Management Commission is anything but starry-eyed.

“I don’t know if we saw any direct result” from past promotions, said David McMillan, a commission member. But he added, “you’ve got to do something.”

The commission will buy space in the Southeast Film Guide’s next annual edition. The $6,000 spread will show images of the range of locations available and list services available to production companies. The guide circulates to just 7,000 people. “Really important people,” said Lauren Joseph, the county’s tourism marketing director who stepped down last month to take a job at Brookgreen Gardens.

At her last meeting, Joseph urged the commission to make a pitch for film business. The state has restored incentives and tax breaks for producers. The county has a long history with the industry, starting with the silent film “Pied Piper Malone,” which was filmed in Georgetown in the 1923. The city stood in for a New England town. Its biggest role was as a background for “The Patriot,” the 2000 film that starred Mel Gibson as a South Carolina farmer who joins the revolution against the British. Mansfield Plantation, where some scenes were shot, still gets traffic from the movie, Joseph said.

Other benefits from films are harder to quantify. McMillan, a co-owner of Drunken Jack’s restaurant, said a film crew that brought about 300 people to Murrells Inlet last year used his Inlet Affairs building. They brought in their own caterer. “They’re not relationship-driven,” he said. At the same time, he said they do require accommodations, which the commission’s efforts are intended to promote.

Commission member Bob Jewell pointed out the county is competing with the Charleston area and questioned whether it would see a return on even a $6,000 investment. “It’s sort of a shot in the dark right now,” he said.

Bob Seganti said the cost to reach the 7,000 decision-makers was “a bargain” compared with other promotions. And there’s another benefit, McMillan said. “We always struggle with something that benefits the western part of the county,” he said. “They benefit some from this.”

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