With $3 billion of film production dollars exported annually out of California, many big cities are vying for starring roles in major motion pictures.
Even cities as small as Moab, Utah - population 2,800 - are making an effort to attract fame and fortune.
Besides film production dollars, cities are hungry for the indirect benefits, such as local hotel and sales taxes, that an on-location film production can bring.
Rating agency officials say tourism and prominence are the primary benefits that film productions can bring to cities and communities.
Joe O'Keefe, a director at Standard & Poor's Corp., said that on-location filming can boost local tourism by casting a city or community in a positive light in the minds of consumers.
"It's an image thing," O'Keefe said. "It enhances the attractiveness of areas. But you'll never be able to quantify the indirect effects."
Paul Devine, a vice president and assistant director at Moody's Investors Service, said the effect of film productions on a city's economy is analogous to the impact of sporting events.
"It brings recognition to a city or community," Devine said.
Banking on the economic benefits to their communities, many cities, regions, and states have set up offices to attract film productions to their communities. There are about 185 city, regional, and state film offices across the country, according to the Association of Film Commissions International.
Many governments, through their film offices, endeavor to simplify the process of filming on location by allowing access to specific sites, providing tax incentives on equipment rentals and purchases, and offering hotel packages.
For instance, Dallas officials blocked off traffic in a 16-city-block area for two weeks to allow director Oliver Stone to shoot "JFK," according to Roger Burke, executive director of the Dallas-Fort Worth Regional Film Commission.
Burke said that in 1990, film and other productions brought in $38 million to the Dallas-Fort Worth area and generated indirect revenues of $133 million.
In recent years, Chicago has been one of the most successful cities to attract major productions, primarily because of the efforts of the Chicago Film Office, which is part of Mayor Richard M. Daley's administration.
The office has been responsible for bringing in numerous films, including "The Fugitive," "Risky Business," "Rookie of the Year," "A League of Their Own," "The Babe," and "Home Alone." In addition, the office has brought documentaries, television shows, and other productions to the city.
Charles Geocaris, director for the Chicago Film Office, said that film production dollars spent in Chicago last year totaled $85 million. He said that the overall benefit to the local economy is probably three times that amount. Production-related hotel tax revenues alone were $2 million in fiscal 1993 and $1.2 million in fiscal 1992, he said.
Geocaris pointed out that the city's tourist image has been heightened by all the filming in the area. Oprah Winfre,y's decision to build a studio on the West Side of Chicago has also solidified the city's standing in the entertainment arena, he said.
But big cities are not the only ones to have benefited from hosting major motion picture crews.
Tiny Moab, Utah, which is home to the oldest film commission in the country, is in the midst of a record year. From January to July of 1993, film productions have showered the local economy with about $6 million, compared to $5.2 million for all of 1992, according to Bette Stanton, executive director of the Monument Valley Film Commission, formerly known as the Moab Film Commission.
And the benefits do not end there.
Near Moab, the production crew for the just released "Geronimo, The Untold Legend" made about $3,000 of improvements on several miles of roads that had to be upgraded to enable crews to transport equipment to the filming site. The improvements have since benefited many of the 20,000 residents in the two-county region outside of Moab.
The former Moab Film Commission was founded in 1949 by Stanton's uncle during the heyday of the Westerns, including "Rio Grande," "Wagon Master," "Battle at Apache Pass," and "Taza, Son of Cochise."
Other movies filmed near Moab include "Indiana Jones - The Temple of Doom" and "City Slickers II - The Search for Curly's Gold," which is scheduled for release next year.
Another small town savoring the fruits of international fame is Dyersville, Iowa, which is home to the "Field of Dreams" ballpark.
"It was built and they came," said Wendol Jarvis, director of the Iowa Film Office. Jarvis said it is not uncommon to see tourists from around the world playing baseball with each other at the field, which became famous after the film was released in 1989.
Jacque Rahe, executive director of the Dyersville Area Chamber of Commerce, said the famous ballpark has stoked tourism in the town of 3,800 and spurred the construction of a new hotel, a Hardee's restaurant. and two convenience stores, all of which contribute sales and hotel taxes to city coffers. In 1992, the town attracted about 100,000 visitors to the ballpark.
"Sometimes there are more tourists on the street than people from the town," Rahe said.
Not bad for a town whose former claim to fame was being the "toy farm truck capital of the world." That distinction brought at most 15,000 people to Dyersville on a few weekends throughout the year, Rahe said.
"But the field of dreams has brought a constant deluge of visitors," Rahe said. "We have to be ~up' all the time when we go out."