68 productions get permits; Big Isle sees ‘steady stream’ of smaller film projects in 2014

It’s been a while since the county has hosted a shoot for a major motion picture.

But a number of smaller film projects continue to take advantage of Hawaii Island’s world-class vistas and renowned hospitality.

A total of 68 productions received Hawaii County film permits and reported $8.7 million in expenditures here in 2014, according to Hawaii County Film Commissioner Ilihia Gionson.

“We’ve had a steady stream of documentaries, reality shows, commercial shoots, and mostly smaller things,” he said Thursday. “But it’s been a steady stream of those smaller things.”

The crew and stars of “Predators,” the Robert Rodriguez-produced entry in the popular “Predator” franchise, shot for 22 days on the Big Isle, primarily in Kolekole, beginning Sept. 28, 2009. That marks the last time a major feature film was shot here, he said.

“We’ve got a couple films looking at Hawaii for production in the future, but they are still in the early stages,” Gionson added.

The far-and-away largest film industry contributor to the local economy last year was “Wheel of Fortune,” which spent $6 million shooting on Hawaii Island, according to Big Island Film Office permits.

In September, the longest-running game show in the country filmed 20 episodes from Hilton Waikoloa Village, as well as various vignettes starring hosts Pat Sajak and Vanna White at Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hapuna Beach and Hulihee Palace.

The show’s expenditures included 200 local hires and bringing in 195 hires from the mainland. Last year represented the third time “Wheel of Fortune” filmed on the island. The show also recorded episodes here in 1996 and 2008.

Gionson said the episodes are fantastic promotions for Hawaii, calling each “a half-hour postcard” from the island.

Episodes from the shoot aired the weeks of Nov. 3-7 and Nov. 10-14. Episodes are also airing this week as part of “Second Honeymoon Week,” and will continue next week during “Hawaii Island Adventure Week.”

Hilton Waikoloa Village Director of Marketing Communications Leanne Pletcher said this was the third time “Wheel of Fortune” has filmed at the resort.

“From our perspective, it’s just great to see the energy level and the enthusiasm they have for the whole island,” she said.

She said the shoots also are huge opportunities for Hilton, boosting room, dining and activity revenues at the property. Not to mention the long-term effects.

“It’s all about promoting the property and the island,” she said. “… We get a number of people coming to the hotel to watch the shows, as well as the crew. … It’s like having a large group without having to meet the typical space requirements.”

In December, “Hawaii Five-O” crews shot scenes for a single episode during a day and a half of filming at the Hi-SEAS Mars habitat simulation facility on Mauna Loa, within the Kalapana Gardens subdivision and at Hilo International Airport.

Normally shot at locations on Oahu, “Hawaii Five-O” injected $350,000 into the Big Isle economy. While that doesn’t represent a huge amount, the shoot was a great opportunity for Hawaii Island, Gionson said.

“(‘Hawaii Five-O’) was big, not so much in terms of the dollars spent, but in demonstrating the island’s ability to accommodate a production like that,” he said. “Because of its nature as a weekly TV show, it has very tight production schedules. They have a week to shoot any given episode. So, having them here was a good demonstration of this island’s ability to accomodate a fast-paced, large production.”

Other programs filmed on the isle include:

• HGTV’s “Building Hawaii,” shot at various homes in Kona.

• Travel Channel’s “Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern,” shot in Waipio, KTA Super Stores, and a fishing boat off Kona.

• “BJ Penn: Mana,” filmed in Hilo and Waipio.

• Travel Channel’s “The Trip 2015,” shot at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Mauka Kona and Hilo Airport.

• Hawaii Visitors &Convention Bureau’s “#LetHawaiiHappen,” filmed at the Four Seasons Hualalai and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

• And multiple commercials shot on-island, including ones for Kona Brewing Company, Tommy Bahama, Roxy, GQ, LL Bean and Speedo.



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