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Case Study: CovingtoN

Updated: Nov 21, 2023

Covington, located approximately 35 miles east of Atlanta, has been long established as a pivotal film and television production hub in Georgia. Benefiting from its scenic cityscapes[KM1] , robust production infrastructure such as Cinelease Studios – Three Ring and close proximity to additional production infrastructure and vendors in Metro Atlanta, the city has been the backdrop for over 160 film productions since 1954, including noteworthy titles such as Dukes of Hazzard (1979-1985), My Cousin Vinny (1991), The Vampire Diaries (2009-2017) and Selma (2014). The popularity of these productions, particularly The Vampire Diaries, has influenced a number of screen tourists to visit the city, resulting in widespread economic benefits for the town.


Covington is a strong example of how film and television has helped the city market itself as a visitor destination, bringing positive economic value to its businesses and communities.


The Vampire Diaries props at the Covington Welcome Centre. Image credit: City of Covington


Aims and Objectives

Covington aims to solidify its position as a central hub for film and television production, leveraging its scenic cityscapes[KM2] and historical involvement in prominent film projects. Supported by both local government and industry partnerships, the city focuses on bolstering screen tourism, which has significantly driven economic growth, enhanced tourist activity, and benefitted local businesses.


Impact

Covington's transformation into an active commercial hub is largely due to the influence of the film and television production sector. Screen production in Covington has benefitted ancillary businesses in the area. The city council [KM3] reports that restaurants such as Bradley’s BBQ, Plain Nuts Catering, and Your Pie saw a tremendous increase in bottom-line revenue while catering for film crew and cast. Similarly, the rental company Covington Rentals reported that without the television production The Vampire Diaries they would have closed their activities in 2009.[1] Beyond The Vampire Diaries, in 2012 alone, Covington and Newton County hosted over 60 films and television productions which have, in turn, generated $19.71 million in worker income from 1,000 jobs.[2]


The economic implications of screen tourism in Covington are significant. As highlighted by the Chamber of Commerce, television and film production, primarily driven by The Vampire Diaries, accounted for 90% of the town's tourism revenues in 2015. This resulted in an increase in direct tourist spending by $5.49 million, accumulating to $125.60 million in 2015.[3] By 2022, the town registered 96,383 visitors from 57 countries. This growth in film-related tourism significantly bolstered Covington's hotel-motel tax revenue, yielding an average property tax savings of $200 per resident.[4] Reflecting the increased tourist interest, average hotel stays in the county have extended from one or two nights to four nights per visitor.[5]


Screen tourism has had a positive impact on local Covington businesses. The Mystic Grill restaurant has experienced significant patronage due to its central role in the Vampire Diaries. Retailers, including On Location Gifts and The Alley, have successfully capitalized on this growing interest by offering Vampire Diaries related merchandise, leading to a surge in sales. Tour operators like Mystic Falls Tours and Main Street Trolleys have also seen a spike in their bookings, providing film-themed experiences that draw consistent tourist interest. In 2011 19,000 tourists from 46 US states and 38 countries came for Vampire Diaries themed tours.[6] A 2020 economic impact study further quantifies this impact, suggesting that 70% of all tourist visitation to Covington can be attributed to film-inspired tourism.[7]


Furthermore, many visitors travel to Covington to see the local museum, which includes original props from Vampire Diaries. The city also reports that thanks to the wealth and popularity of the city as a leisure location, there are no vacancies in the main square – signaling the impact on the city.


 

[1] Information provided by Covington Welcome Center [2] Lights, Camera, Money. The Covington News, 10th August 2014. Accessible at: https://www.covnews.com/news/lights-camera-money/ [3]From TV to real-life jobs: ‘If that’s not impact, I don’t know what is. Georgia Studio & Infrastructure Alliance, 15th January 2023. Accessible at: https://www.gastudioalliance.net/post/from-tv-to-real-life-jobs-if-that-s-not-impact-i-don-t-know-what-is [4]Newton County: People, Partnership, Progress. Georgia Trend, June 27th, 2023. Accessible at: https://www.georgiatrend.com/2023/06/27/newton-county-people-partnership-progress/ [5]Lights, Camera, Money. The Covington News, 10th August 2014. Accessible at: https://www.covnews.com/news/lights-camera-money/ [6] Vampires keep bringing in tourists, money. The Covington News, 14th March 2012. Accessible at: https://www.covnews.com/news/vampires-keep-bringing-in-tourists-money/#:~:text=The%20%24600%20Kelly%20said%20she,estimated%20%2490.96%20million%20during%202010. [7]Economic Impact of the Film Industry in Newton County, Georgia. Tripp Umbach, 25th June 2021

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