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Motion Picture and TV Production in Hawaii
An examination of the recent state of the film and TV industries and their roles in the economy of Hawaii

Last weekend we looked at the new Touchtone film, "Six Days, Seven Nights", starring Harrison Ford, Anne Heche and David Schwimmer and directed by Ivan Reitman. As we learned principal photography for the film was done over a ten week period last year on the island of Kauai. This week we will take a look at the recent state of the motion picture industry and national television production in Hawaii, and their economic impact on the islands.

Let's start with a quiz. Which of the following motion pictures were filmed in Hawaii?

1997-- George of the Jungle -- Disney Studios
1997-- 6 Days, 7 Nights -- Disney Studios
1995-- Outbreak -- Warner Bros
1994-- Waterworld -- Universal Studios
1993-- Jurassic Park -- Universal Studios
1990-- Lord of the Flies -- Castle Rock Pictures
1987-- Throw Momma From the Train -- Orion Pictures
1985-- Black Widow -- 20th Century Fox
1981-- Raiders of the Lost Ark -- Lucas-Spielberg Prod
1977-- Islands in the Stream -- Paramount Pictures
1974-- Man With The Golden Gun -- Eon Productions
1970-- The Hawaiians -- Mirisch Productions
1966-- Hawaii -- United Artists
1961-- Blue Hawaii -- Hal Wallis Productions
1960-- Wackiest Ship in the Army -- Columbia Pictures
1958-- The Old Man and the Sea -- Warner Brothers
1958-- South Pacific -- Samuel Goldwyn Company

The answer is - All of them! And they are just a few of the many films made in Hawaii since 1918. You can check out the Big Island Production History at the homepage of the Big Island Film Office. For a list of films made on Kauai check out the Kauai Movie History at the Hawaii Movie Tours website. The motion picture industry has long played an important role of the economy of Hawaii, and nowhere more than on the island of Kauai. So many films have been made on Kauai that Hawaii Movie Tours is doing quite well offering full day tours of some of the sites of Kauai made famous on film.

Photo by John Fischer

In this photo alone of the famous Wailua River Valley, you can see the grassy plain on the left which Harrison Ford ran across while being chased by natives in the opening scenes of "Raiders of the Lost Ark". To the right you can see the African Village constructed for the film "Outbreak".

1997 was a great year for film-making on Kauai. In addition to "Six Days, Seven Nights", which pumped $11.2 million into the island economy, according to the county Office of Economic Development, 51 other productions spent $1.7 million last year. In all, revenues from film projects on Kauai in 1997 reached $13 million, the highest yearly total ever. By comparison, film revenues for 1996 were about $6 million. Using an economic multiplier of two, film production last year infused about $26 million into Kauai's economy, the county said.

For the entire State of Hawaii, spending on film and television production last year hit nearly $71 million, the second-largest annual take in state history and an increase of about 18 percent from $59.7 million the year before. Hawaii's best year was 1994, when production spending hit $96.5 million, thanks mostly to $35 million spent for filming "Waterworld" on the Big Island.

A new and exciting film for Hawaii, entitled "Father Damien" starring Australian actor David Wenham in the title role is currently filming in Kalaupapa on Molokai. A production by Tharsi Vanhuysse of Brussels, Belgium-based ERA Films this new movie has a strong supporting cast including Peter O'Toole, Derek Jacobi and Alice Krige. According to the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, in addition to a number of Hawaiian actors such as who will also be seen in the film, over 1,000 Hawaii people are employed in the production, which will continue through mid-August.

It is not only motion pictures that have been made in Hawaii. Over the years a number of popular television dramas have also been produced in Hawaii, but none more famous than "Hawaii Five-O" and "Magnum P.I.", which dominated the Hawaii- produced television scene from 1968 through 1988. The years following the cancellation of "Magnum P.I.", which are actually referred to as the post-Magnum years, have been very slow for network dramas based in Hawaii. Several short run series have been produced including "Byrds of Paradise," "One West Waikiki" and "Marker." in 1994. In the last year three television pilots -- "Hawaii Five-0", "SoulMates" and "Hawaii CRU" were produced, but not picked up, by the networks.

It is not just through these and other dramatic series that Hawaii can be seen on national television. The annual college Hula Bowl and NFL Pro-Bowl games provide vital national exposure for the islands in a time when tourism is down and the economy in dire need on a boost.

The Hawaiian based TV industry received a much needed shot in the arm when it was recently announced that ABC has picked up the new "Fantasy Island" and placed it on it's fall schedule. The new show features well known actor Malcolm McDowell as Mr. Roarke. The pilot for the new show was filmed in Hana, Maui in April, providing a much needed boost to the local economy. The 93-room Hotel Hana-Maui was completely booked with 65 rooms. At this time it is unclear where the actually filming for the series will take place.

Location Shoot of "Wind and Water", Big Island of Hawaii 04/02/98
Photo by John Fischer

In addition, "Wind on Water", starring Bo Derek as the mother of two world-class surfer-skiers who are helping to run the family's cattle ranch on the Big Island, has been given the green light by NBC for 12 episodes plus the pilot. The show will air as a mid-season replacement. The pilot for "Wind on Water" was filmed on the Big Island of Hawaii in March and April of this year. It is, however, not clear where the actual series will be filmed, however, it appears that a certain amount of the filming will take place in Hawaii.

As you can see, the motion picture and television industry remain a key part of the economy of Hawaii and will likely remain so in the future. As new developments occur we will keep you posted.

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