Now that the dust has settled from the making of the movie Sonic the Hedgehog in Ladysmith this fall, it is time to reflect on the effects it had on our town. The most obvious was the infiltration of dozens and dozens of crew and cast, and the transformation of Ladysmith’s downtown into Green Hills, Montana. The excitement built as we watched trucks and other movie-making equipment roll into town. Soon the side streets were alive with members of the movie crew, and the High Street Ballpark in Market Square became a tent city for crew and cast members.
The week before the actual shooting, painters repainted some downtown buildings and put up signage for the fictitious businesses in the movie. Locals and visitors wandered the downtown watching the transformation of the main street. Many of the tourists went into these storefronts looking for hardware or lights, only to find realty offices or the local computer shop. First Avenue was disrupted during the business day once, and the majority of the filming occurred in the early evening or overnight.
So now that the stars have faded from our eyes, what did our business community and the Town get out of this venture? In speaking with almost all of the business and building owners that were directly affected by the changes, the consensus was that they were well treated and compensated fairly for any negative effects on their business. The movie company made generous donations to both the Ladysmith Food Bank ($6,000) and the Festival of Lights ($4,000). Some residents of the town secured employment as background players and for the use of their cars, if needed. Some of our local merchants piggy-backed onto the event and produced specialty items, such the Sonic martini at Zack’s Lounge and hedgehog cinnamon buns at the Old Town Bakery.
The municipality worked closely with the production company and provided assistance that sometimes made use of Town staff and equipment, for which the Town was reimbursed at a rate set out by the Town policies. The Town also charged the production company for use of Town properties, such as parking on the main street and other locations ($12,379.46). Sonic Production has been invoiced a total of $32,256.82, plus taxes, by the Town.
This bill does not take into account administrative time and related expenses incurred by City Hall staff in reviewing and negotiating with the production company.
It is hoped that once the movie is released next November, credit will be given to the Town of Ladysmith and that this will attract visitors to our community and further stimulate our local tourism industry. And let’s encouarge more movie producers to set up shop here.
At least, that is as I see it.