While new blood invigorates Oregon, an old highway is remembered fondly

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It was another banner year for locations news. Michigan entered the fray as more states found themselves in the murky waters of film incentives. (Of course, all those programs are under new scrutiny as the U.S. enters a recession.)

Meanwhile, "Slumdog Millionaire," shot entirely in Mumbai, is shaping up to be a major awards contender even as the city returned to the news in a tragic way with last month's terrorist attacks.

northwest passage

Every couple of years, it seems as though one movie captures the imagination of audiences and sends them to the places where the movie filmed. "Brokeback Mountain" did it for Alberta, Canada, in 2005 and 2006, while "The Lord of the Rings" did it a few years earlier for New Zealand. This year, hands down, that movie is "Twilight."

The book from which the movie was adapted already was having an effect on tourism in Washington state, where it is set, so it's logical that the same kind of devotion would be showered on the movie, which shot principally in northern Oregon.

Of course, this is all hindsight, before anyone outside the tween/teen demo knew how big that book really was.

The people renting their locations in Oregon certainly didn't see it coming, though employees at the View Point Inn in Corbett, where the movie's climactic prom scene was shot, got an inkling right away: Soon after signing the contracts, two teenage girls showed up, driven from Vancouver by their moms.

Hiking and other movie tours have sprung up in the area, with locations and movie theaters working together to tap into fan interest by creating "Twilight" events. But it's probably the inn — built in 1926 and a "ghost hotel" for decades until a couple of gents bought and spruced it up a few years ago — that most acutely feels the tourism boost.

In Stephenie Meyer's book, the prom takes place in a dingy high school gym; director Catherine Hardwicke wanted to make it more cinematic by shoting it in a more natural and outdoorsy setting, finally settling on the inn.

Despite the interest, it's hard times for the View Point Inn, according to its owners; it sometimes misses payroll and needs work on its roof, chimney and foundation. But they hope that "Twilight" might save it.

"It's wild. Our business is up 20% to 30%; we'll be able to make payroll next week because of 'Twilight,' " says Geoff Thompson, who spent three years fighting various levels of government to reopen the inn. "We still need help, but (my feeling is) if you can get through today, tomorrow is another day to fight."

Oregonians are hoping that the sequel, due to start filming in March, will return to the area, but nothing is finalized. Says Vince Porter, executive director of the Oregon Film & Video Office, "We're hopeful, but every movie is like starting from scratch."

Not all of "Twilight" shot in the Pacific Northwest, by the way: The scene in the meadow where vampire heartthrob Edward Cullen reveals his true self to his love actually was shot in Los Angeles, at Griffith Park's Woodrow Wilson Golf Course.

On the road again

As the year closes, the Location Managers Guild of America is putting together its latest photographic project, this one centering on Route 66. In 2006, the organization chronicled the last days of the Ambassador Hotel with "Last Looks: The Ambassador Hotel," and this year it unveiled "Concentric Circles: Metro L.A. Revealed," documenting art and life around Los Angeles' Metro stations.

Tentatively titled "Route 66: On the Road Again," the latest project is being envisioned as an ode to life, cars, people and the buildings that lined the once-major highway that was replaced by the interstate system and decommissioned in 1985. The project is the brainchild of Scott Trimble, who did locations work on such movies as "Transformers" and "Hancock."

Although in the early planning stages, the LMGA already threw an inaugural event for the project, organizing a walking tour in November that saw members stroll, chat, take pictures and stop for coffee along the first nine miles of the route, starting at the Santa Monica Pier and heading east.

The Route 66 project is being envisioned as the first national project for the guild, which seeks to establish itself as an organization that looks beyond Los Angeles.

"We are trying to establish a standard of excellence," the guild's Lori Balton says. "Instead of doing five mediocre projects over five years, we'd rather have one excellent project every five years if we have to."

Borys Kit can be reached at borys.kit@THR.com.
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