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Las Vegas Tourism Doubles Down on Marketing Via Movies and TV

Jul 09, 2014 4:41 pm

Skift Take

A big part of the allure of Vegas is what people see on screen, so this is a no-brainer.

— Jason Clampet

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Sony Pictures Entertainament

Kevin Hart in the trailer to "Think Like a Man Too." Sony Pictures Entertainament


In the trailer for the current Screen Gems movie “Think Like a Man Too,” actor Kevin Hart is shown dancing in his underwear and socks, sliding across the marble floor of the opulent Constantine villa at Caesars Palace.

The hotel’s facade is prominently displayed, along with scenes at the hotel pool, casino floor and main lobby.

In fact, Caesars and its sister properties are as much characters in the film as is Hart.

The heavy promotion was part of an unusual arrangement between Screen Gems, owned by Sony Pictures Entertainment, and Caesars Palace, which allowed producers to shoot virtually all of their movie last summer on its property.

Caesars, which operates Paris, Flamingo and Bally’s and others, is among several leading casinos and resorts rolling out the red carpet to Hollywood. They regard movies and TV shows as an increasingly valuable marketing tool and a way to lend some star power to their properties. Typically, they become “partners” with producers, agreeing to waive or reduce film rental fees in exchange for the benefits of having their hotel featured in the movie.

“We view movies as a great way to expose our brand in an entertaining way,” says Gary Selesner, regional president of Caesars Entertainment. “It’s much more effective than just taking out a TV commercial.”

Caesars, which has its own film department, hosted 130 productions last year. Among them have been multiple episodes of the TV series “House of Lies,” which filmed at Planet Hollywood and other locations. The resort got a big marketing lift after it was heavily featured in the 2009 movie “The Hangover.”

Rival Wynn Las Vegas launched its own filming initiative this year. The resort recently hosted its first feature, Sony Pictures’ “Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2,” which was filmed almost entirely on the property.

“We had seen some of the benefits [Caesars] had gotten from ‘The Hangover,'” said Sean Christie, a partner with the resort. “Everybody knows what it did for Caesars.”

MGM Resorts International also is actively courting the film industry.

“There’s certainly an impact to having these kinds of productions,” said Stacy Hamilton, spokeswoman for MGM Resorts International, which has hosted the 2013 movies “Last Vegas” and “Now You See Me” and the game show “The Amazing Race.”

“It keeps Las Vegas top of mind for moviegoers,” Hamilton added. “When they see the stars having these fun experiences in Las Vegas, they want to experience something similar to that.”

Nevada already attracts $90 million to $100 million in movie and TV production spending annually.

That level is expected to grow now the state has adopted its own film tax credit incentive. In January, Nevada agreed to provide $20 million annually over the next four years to attract more film spending.

Lawmakers supported the program as a way to boost jobs and diversify the state’s economy, making it less reliant on tourism and gaming.

“We hope the tax credit is going to drive additional investment and production in Nevada,” said Eric Preiss, director of the Nevada Film Office.

Nevada is relatively late to the game. Dozens of other states already offer film tax breaks as a way to court movies and TV shows.

But Preiss says the state has some natural advantages.

“We have one-of-a-kind locations, very predictable weather that’s conducive to filming, and 150,000 hotel rooms,” he said. “Our proximity to California makes us an attractive destination, because it’s easy to travel back and forth.”

In Nevada, companies that spend a minimum of $500,000 and shoot at least of 60% of their movie in the state are eligible to receive a tax credit of up to 19% of qualified production costs.

Recent projects that have taken advantage of the program include “Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2,” an untitled movie starring Dakota Fanning and a horror film called “Lake Mead,” co-produced by Eli Roth. CBS has been filming a pilot series in Vegas, which already is home to a number of reality TV shows such as “Pawn Stars,” “Counting Cars” and “American Restoration.”

The credits are transferable, meaning production companies that have no business tax liability in Nevada can sell them to third parties that can use them to offset their own tax obligations.

Casinos could be among the big beneficiaries, using the film tax credits to reduce their own casino gaming tax liabilities.

“The casinos, we expect, will be significant buyers of the film tax credits,” Preiss said.

Las Vegas has been a frequent backdrop for crime movies like “Casino” and “Ocean’s Eleven” and such dramas as the Oscar-winning “Rain Man,” which filmed at Caesars more than two decades ago.

But few movies have filmed as much at one Vegas resort as “Think Like a Man Too.” The crew filmed over 38 days last summer, mainly at iconic sites such as the Forum Shops, the Eiffel Tower Restaurant, the Venus Pool Club, Nobu Restaurant and Planet Hollywood. The script was written around 17 locations at Caesars.

The filmmakers used lightweight digital cameras that don’t need much lighting equipment to film inside hotel rooms such as the Constantine that have traditionally been off limits to crews.

“They were great partners,” said Glenn Gainor, president of production for Screen Gems. “They really wanted us to be there.”

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