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To the average viewer, the movie is a nice tale on the joys of travel. But any marketing or travel professional will see destination marketing at its most motivational best.
The Secret of Life of Walter Mitty has earned $45.7 million and a spot among the top ten movies at North American box offices since its release on Christmas Day. The logos and landscapes of the airlines and Iceland are prominently seen and talked about throughout the film.
Iceland became part of the Walter Mitty script when Fox executives visited the country to film Prometheus and saw that the destination would also work well for the Ben Stiller film, explains Einar Hansen Tomasson, the film commissioner of Film In Iceland.
Iceland has become a popular location for film crews in recent years by providing financial incentives. Iceland offers producers a 20 percent refund on qualified expenditure for media projects and, in return, benefits from increased publicity and destination awareness.
“I think it has a good impact [on tourism] without having any numbers to back that up,” says Tomasson.
“There are some film location tours available in Iceland now and we have received emails from people that are planning to visit Iceland this summer and are asking about film locations because they would like to visit those particular locations.”
The producers saw that Iceland could also double for other destinations represented in the film including neighboring Greenland, Afghanistan, and the Himalayas.
However, such production realities create a sticky marketing situation for destinations that are represented in the film, but never actually seen. For example, Visit Greenland was wary of marketing the destination in connection to the movie’s release in the UK.
“I was a bit worried that it could backlash on us as not a second of it has been shot in Greenland,” says Visit Greenland senior consultant Malik Milfeldt. “Our great neighbors in Iceland doubled for us so everything you see in the movie which is supposed to be Greenland is actually Iceland.”
Travel companies also have to consider the impact of being shown in a possibly negative light. When the Walter Mitty producers contacted Air Greenland about filming onboard one of their planes, the airline became weary of being associated with a drunk pilot in the movie.
“After reading the script we ok’d that they use our logo in connection with the flight to Greenland,” explains Air Greenland PR manager Jesper Kunuk Egede. “We also asked to make sure that Air Greenland was not associated with the drunk pilot and they readily agreed to that”
The producers didn’t end up filming onboard one of Air Greenland’s planes but still recreated Air Greenland’s signage and uniforms.
American Airlines’ now-outdated planes also appeared in the film alongside AA Terminal 8 at John F. Kennedy International Airport.
An airline spokesperson says the airline receives many requests to film in their planes and terminals, but they were excited to be a part of Walter Mitty as it “aligned American with properties that are meaningful to its best customers and strengthened the brand.”