New tour offers glimpse of New Orleans movie sites
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Sitting near the New Orleans streetcar line aboard a van equipped with video screens and a speaker system, tourists watch actress Vivien Leigh ride the city's vintage electric rail vehicles in a scene from the 1951 film "A Streetcar Named Desire."
In the French Quarter, passengers look on as Bruce Willis escapes attackers outside a praline shop in the 2010 film "Red." They also watch a young Kirsten Dunst bite into a woman's neck in Jackson Square in one of her early roles as a bloodthirsty child vampire in 1994's "Interview With a Vampire."
A new multimedia tour being offered in New Orleans takes passengers to locations where famous movie scenes were filmed and shows them a clip from the film on site. The tour also includes peeks at the New Orleans homes of actors Brad Pitt, Sandra Bullock and John Goodman.
"It really is a different way to see the city," said Debbie Carroll, a self-proclaimed movie buff from Springfield, Mo., who took the tour earlier this month. "I love movies, so I was excited to take this tour, but I also like that I got to see parts of the city I had never seen before."
Besides the tourist-heavy French Quarter, New Orleans Movie Tours includes stops in lesser-known neighborhoods such as Treme and the Faubourg Marigny. Clips from those neighborhoods include an action-packed fight sequence with Jean-Claude Van Damme in 1993's "Hard Target" and scenes from 2004's "Ray" about the life of singer Ray Charles, which landed Jamie Foxx an Academy Award.
The HBO television series "Treme," which frequently films in both the Treme and Faubourg Marigny neighborhoods and is currently filming its third season in New Orleans, is also in the tour.
The tour is approximately two hours long, includes popcorn, and is packed with location stops and clips from roughly 30 films shot in New Orleans, among them 2008's "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" starring Pitt; 1965's "The Cincinnati Kid" with Steve McQueen and Ann-Margaret; 1969's "Easy Rider" with Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda, and 1958's "King Creole" starring Elvis Presley.
New Orleans Movie Tours was launched this past summer by the husband-wife team of Jonathan and Michelle Ray, movie lovers from Willington, Conn., who moved to New Orleans roughly 10 years ago.
"We fell in love with the culture, the music, the people, the food, basically everything that we didn't have in Connecticut," Jonathan Ray said.
The couple followed the growing film culture in the city, he said.
Since Louisiana film tax credits were introduced in 2002, movie production hubs have popped up in cities across the state, including Shreveport, Lafayette and Baton Rouge. But New Orleans continues to see most of the activity. This year alone, roughly 45 projects — almost half of all those filmed in the state — were shot in the New Orleans area.
"If there's something filming, we try to include it on the tour, so the tour can change slightly from day to day," Jonathan Ray said.
During the hot summer months, the temperature-controlled van is a comfortable alternative to the walking tours the city offers, he said.
The movie tour appears to be a growing draw for tourists and locals alike, said Jennifer Day, a spokeswoman for the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau and former director of the New Orleans film office. Day said the movie tour fills a void that's existed for some time.
"When I worked at the film office, we got calls all the time from movie buffs wanting information on where movies were filmed and from visitors in the city who wanted to keep an eye out for the movie they saw filming," she said.
The tour appears to be one of only a handful like it in the U.S.
"You have to be at a site where a lot of movies have been filmed for it to work," said Doug Lumsden, owner of Monterey Movie Tours in Monterey, Calif., one of fewer than a dozen multimedia movie tours in the United States. Besides New Orleans, such tours are also offered in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston, Chicago, and Savannah, Ga., Lumsden said.
One of the first movie tours opened on the Hawaiian island of Kauai in 1995. That tour, Hawaii Movie Tours, includes more than a dozen stops at such locations as Wailua Falls, where the TV show "Fantasy Island" was made, and Kapaa Town, where the 1993 Steven Spielberg-directed blockbuster "Jurassic Park" was filmed.
Lumsden said his tour takes movie lovers through Monterey, Pacific Grove, Carmel and Pebble Beach. Among the highlights is The Lodge at Pebble Beach, where Doris Day ran through the entry in the suspense drama, "Julie."
Lumsden said the Rays visited California and took his tour before launching their own venture in New Orleans.
"They are really good," he said. "They did their homework, and they really know their stuff."
If You Go...
NEW ORLEANS MOVIE TOURS: Daily, 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.
RESERVE ONLINE: http://www.nolamovies.com or call 800-979-3370
PRICE: Adult tickets are $39, children ages 4-12 are $29