Movies set in hotels create long-term benefits

Like many other people, I’ve succumbed to the decades-in-the-making surge in TV consumption. My vices are movies and the occasional sports game. But most of the time, the TV is in the background as I blast out memos, emails and short essays on my laptop—multitasking at its finest.

In fact, that’s what I’m doing right now—burning the midnight oil to extrapolate on a question that crossed my mind while a rerun of the fan favorite “Scarface” (1983) plays out 10 feet away. My eureka moment was midway through the film when Al Pacino’s eponymous character strategizes his next move while lounging on a terrace at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach.Other examples

This same argument could be applied for many other popular Hollywood film jaunts. For instance, the Plaza Hotel in New York has played host to “North by Northwest” (1959), “Crocodile Dundee” (1986) and “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York” (1992)—three films that were well received across a wide range of demographic clusters.Can having a portion of a popular or iconic film set in your hotel work to increase your brand appeal in the long run?

At first glance, no. Or, at the very least, the positive effect of this action would be immeasurable or nominal at best. But then I gave it some more thought, with particular attention to the setting of “Scarface.”

Emotional associations
The Fontainebleau has hit the silver screen many times, notably in “Goldfinger” (1964), “The Bodyguard” (1992) and “Scarface.” Do these appearances legitimize the property as holding a certain brand mystique in the customer’s mind?

There’s little doubt these movies bolstered the Fontainebleau’s image. The building is stunningly colorful and highly memorable, two traits producers and location scouts would factor into the mix when settling on where to film. On the surface, it looks to be the other way around: Using the Fontainebleau legitimized “Scarface.”

Picture yourself as a young travel shopper. Perhaps such hotel cameos could be leveraged to help win a few more bookings. Suppose the Fontainebleau posted the appropriate images from these popular movies under the accommodations or activities section of their website. A fan of any one of these films would instantly form a deep emotional connection. “We could stay where Tony Montana stayed,” they might say to themselves.

This association to the film can help bridge the gap to a future experience one might enjoy while on property. If they liked “Scarface,” they will like staying at the Fontainebleau. With every hotel in Miami available for cross-referencing at the click of a mouse, the fact that this classic took place at the Fontainebleau becomes a unique, albeit very niche, emotional selling point.

Other examples
This same argument could be applied for many other popular Hollywood film jaunts. For instance, the Plaza Hotel in New York has played host to “North by Northwest” (1959), “Crocodile Dundee” (1986) and “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York” (1992)—three films that were well received across a wide range of demographic clusters.

Given its traditional, luxurious design, its location abutting Fifth Avenue and Central Park and its commitment to outstanding service, the Plaza Hotel would be successful without this trio of Hollywood cameos. But did the Plaza Hotel experience a spike in occupancy shortly after these three films reached blockbuster status?

Better yet, picture Las Vegas, a town where movie associations are pretty far down the list of travel considerations after conferences, desert warmth, shows, gambling and all things sin. Taken from a very macro point of view, hotels in Las Vegas are all interchangeable. So, when selecting what hotel a guest might stay at on The Strip, movie associations might play an important role.

The remake of “Ocean’s Eleven” (2001) prominently displayed the Bellagio’s magnificent fountain, which is already a unique point of differentiation for the hotel. People might choose the Bellagio over other luxury Las Vegas properties simply to have a front row seat for one of the town’s best landmarks. Essentially, whenever the cathartic denouement fountain scene in “Ocean’s Eleven” is on, it’s a flashing billboard for the Bellagio, convincing guests to stay there.

“The Hangover” (2009) took place almost exclusively at Caesars Palace and is one of the highest grossing comedies of all time. It’s safe to say that this movie touched a fair number of people, particularly those in the Generation X and millennial bubbles. “The Hangover” elicits happy emotions and feelings that might percolate through the brainwaves when a younger consumer is researching options for the next bachelor or bachelorette party.

Flying across the pond to Tokyo, we’re struck with another unlikely contender in the breakout indie hit “Lost in Translation” (2003), set at the Park Hyatt Tokyo. Would this film singlehandedly convince someone to visit Tokyo? Probably not. But, by identifying with the characters on screen, viewers identify with the Park Hyatt Tokyo, and this plays a part when it’s time to book one hotel over another. Considering this is a 5-star property, perhaps one’s love of the film acts as a nudge for them to splurge beyond their intended price range.

My suspicions were all but confirmed by the “Lost in Translation Experience” at the Park Hyatt Tokyo, where guests can relive all the best moments of the film spread over a comfortable five-night stay. The hotel-film connection continues to propagate media attention.

Transforming a country
Consider “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy and “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.” With stunning panoramic cinematography, New Zealand is undeniably Middle Earth, and tourism has spiked upwards by hundreds of millions of dollars to the nation’s two main islands as a direct result of the popularity of these fantasy epics.

The whole country has adapted its hospitality approach with various tour groups and hotels catering specifically to the Middle Earth-trotting crowd. In fact, “The Lord of the Rings” is so important to New Zealand that when New Line Cinema, the parent studio behind the franchise, threatened to outsource production on “The Hobbit” due to rising costs, Parliament stepped in and rewrote new national labor laws as well as added new tax incentives to help keep the movie shoot entirely in domestic hands.

By squeezing the budget to accommodate the threats of Hollywood bigwigs, the government was firmly set toward long-term gains—billions in future hospitality revenues from avid travelers yearning to visit their favorite Middle Earth locales. Instead of throwing its marketing capital solely toward the creation of a distinct brand image for tourists, the government decided to leverage an existing fan base toward its own interests.

Think of your property
This harkens back to another relevant hypothetical to ask yourself: If a film producer approached you about using your hotel for a shoot, would you jump at the chance? Saying “no” is perfectly logical. Even though you’d be paid for your troubles, you’d likely have to close shop for several weeks, and the compensation would hardly match that accrued by occupied rooms. And if you stayed open during the ordeal, you risk infuriating your guests with the disturbance.

But saying “yes” has some powerful advantages you should at least consider before passing on the opportunity. Chief among them being your hotel will be immortalized on film, and if the movie performs well at the box office or gains a cult following, you might be reaping the rewards of this investment for decades to come.

(Article published by Larry Mogelonsky on Hotel News Now on April 12, 2013)

Larry MogelonskyMovies set in hotels create long-term benefits