Georgia’s movie and TV industry, especially in metro Atlanta, has skyrocketed ever since the state started offering film tax credits. To name just a few productions, Walking Dead, Stranger Things, Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War have all been shot in and around Atlanta.
Beyond Hollywood stars, film production also brings curious fans. Atlanta Movie Tours takes people to see the original locations where the movie and TV magic happens. Since its founding in 2012, the company reports that it has brought more than 50,000 people, mostly out-of-towners, on tours. This year, Atlanta Movie Tours plans on starting tours of Tyler Perry Studios, located at the former Fort McPherson Army base.
Carrie Burns, co-founder and chief movie buff of Atlanta Movie Tours, talked with Crain’s Atlanta about the city’s filming industry.
How is the growth of Atlanta Movie Tours as Atlanta has gotten more movies and TV shows?
It’s been pretty phenomenal. When we started, we were running a tour a week, and now we pretty much run every day… I would say this time of year, we’re running probably upwards of 25 to 30 tours a week. We’ve also added on walking tours. That kind of ups the numbers as well, so we’re really probably with the walking tours even higher than that because sometimes on the weekends, we’ll end up with a lot of walking tours. We’ve got one that’s up here in Atlanta, but we do another down in Senoia for The Walking Dead that gets a lot of traction.
The nice thing is that now people are really – with all the media and everything – people are really catching on that the filming’s happening here. So even with something like Black Panther, there’s just a knowledge level where you kind of start to hit a tipping point where [people know] it’s not just L.A. and New York. They can now come here and kind of have that same experience, and that’s what we try to offer…
We’re trying to [have] actual studio tours so that then it kind of closes the L.A. gap… People go to Hollywood so that you can go to Paramount and you can go to Universal and see these studios. It’s just a different experience. So we’re fitting this gap right now, but then we’re trying to help the studios to get to the point where they can do that. And we really think that somebody like Tyler Perry Studios is the most obvious choice because they’re definitely staging themselves to be in that focus of community.
What sort of research is involved in creating a tour?
Not to sound cocky, but we’ve kind of gotten good at it. We know what people will want to see. We know what’ll work into our flow well. And we always look for and take suggestions from our staff… We have 21 guides now, and they’re all actors and extras and work on set, so we value their opinion incredibly highly. It’s not a spoiler situation, like they always keep things very professional. But they listen to what the guests say, and then they’ll let us know if something doesn’t seem to be working well or if they think, “Hey, this is a location that’s about come up,” or “Hey, this location is right around the corner from where we go and I think the guests would like to see it.” So we may try it. We may give them the flexibility to try it and let us know.
From a research standpoint, that’s pretty much always ongoing. We’re constantly looking at new locations, looking at new movies, thinking about different things that could work.
What is the future of your business?
We’ve always wanted to do some larger weekend events and some larger, longer format tours. So our Stranger Things tour is most likely going to be set as a longer, six- or seven-hour tour just because of the amount of ground that we want to cover in the tour, which is different. If you look around, there’s plenty of tours that do go for that long – that they may go on winery tours and things like that where there’s extra travel time – but that kind of brings in another element.
Again, everything we do is how to create this experience. For some people, when they come visit us, it’s a bucket list item. When we were starting the company, I never really thought about this being a bucket list item. But when we hear from people, especially people coming internationally, this may be the only time they get to come to the States, just with the cost of the trip and everything else. So especially from a Walking Dead perspective, we’re a bucket list, and it’s the type of thing where if we can do anything that’s going to enhance that experience, we want to do that. So there are plenty of people we hear from who only have the ability to be here for a day, and they want to do all of the Walking Dead tours that we have. Right now, that’s not possible, so we’re looking at a way where if we do a six- or seven-hour tour, we’d be able to basically combine it with a lunch stop and you’d get just about all of the locations.