England on show: The places attracting screen tourism
The English pub, British stately homes and London’s skyline will all take their turn on the big screen over Christmas and into the new year.
Tourist operators hoping to cash in on the success of films which take millions at the box office will see a flurry of releases which use England as their backdrop.
Among the films which have connections to the UK are Great Expectations and The Hobbit while TV series like Downton Abbey and Doctor Who continue to use British locations.
But how can England’s tourism industry capitalise on the success of the silver screen?
Visit England, the country’s tourist board, said statistics from the Nation Brand Index on associations with Britain showed film was the third most popular choice of cultural products people associated with the UK.
Image caption Lord of the Rings actor John Rhys-Davies has given his support to the Glastonbury film
A spokeswoman said: “Respondents are asked what cultural products they associate with Britain from a pre-prepared list, and film was associated with Britain by 41%, the third highest below museums and music.”
Tourism off the back of blockbusters like War Horse and the Harry Potter series of films has been widely reported.
In Somerset, John Turner, vice chairman of the Somerset Tourism Association, is hoping a new film will do for the county what The Lord of the Rings trilogy did for New Zealand.
Glastonbury Isle of Light – due for release at the end of 2013 – will tell the story of the myths and legends surrounding Joseph of Arimathea’s flight from hostility in Jerusalem to his landing in Britain, his stewardship of the Holy Grail, and Celtic resistance against Roman imperial domination.
The project has the support of Lord of the Rings and Indiana Jones actor John Rhys-Davies and involves Weta Workshop, the special effects company which created the visual effects on The Lord of the Rings, King Kong and Avatar.
Mr Turner said: “If you look at Lord of the Rings with New Zealand it had a significant impact on that country.
England on screen in 2013
Quarter: Starring Maggie Smith and Michael Gambon and filmed in Buckinghamshire
Jack and the Giant Slayer: Starring Ewan Macgregor and filmed in Surrey
About Time: Directed by Richard Curtis and set in Cornwall and London
The World’s End: Starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost and set in Letchworth Garden City and Welwyn Garden City
Alan Partridge The Movie: Norwich is expected to have its usual starring role
“People see the landscapes and architecture in a film and they want to visit, it’s really big business.”
He said many people had visited Wells, in Somerset, after seeing it in the film Hot Fuzz because they thought it looked “quintessentially English”.
To capitalise on the Glastonbury film, Mr Turner is about to start work with the New Zealand Tourism Board and Weta.
He said figures showed visitors had spent millions of pounds in New Zealand because of the Lord of the Rings films being made there.
He said: “These figures are staggering and put the whole project into context in terms of Visit Somerset, and demonstrate why we are so keen to make sure that we have as full an involvement and participation with this film project in bringing it to fruition.”
One company which has capitalised on the UK’s film locations is Brit Movie Tours.
The business, which was set up in 2009, initially offered James Bond movie location tours before expanding to include tours of locations from films like the Harry Potter series and TV shows such as Gavin and Stacey.
Lewis Swan, director of Brit Movie Tours, said “screen tourism” was a relatively new venture which was pioneered in the US when cities like New York began offering tours of shows such as Sex and the City.
He said: “I’m a lifelong James Bond fan so I wanted to set up a tour but I couldn’t just do that [one tour] so I began doing other tours like Harry Potter.”
Image caption Great Expectations was filmed in a number of locations around the south of England
Mr Swan said tours like Harry Potter and Downton Abbey were popular with British and American tourists while a Gavin and Stacey tour in Wales was almost entirely booked by domestic tourists.
He said the best efforts at capitalising on famous links were those done by Barry Island, in Wales, after the Gavin and Stacey TV series.
He said: “Barry Island is a really good example – before Gavin and Stacey was broadcast it was a resort in decline but since the show was made the area has really capitalised with merchandise and paraphernalia.”
He added: “We’re introducing an Emmerdale tour in Yorkshire next year because that’s a region that has used a show as a great vehicle to promote places.
“People sit in their lounges subconsciously or consciously seeing all these places and then they want to go there because they are interested in the place or want to get closer to the show.
“It appeals to old and young people, domestic and international visitors.”