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Case Study: Senoia

Updated: Nov 21, 2023

Senoia is situated in Coweta County, approximately 35 miles south of Atlanta, and has a population of just over 5,000 according to the 2020 US Census. Although primarily a residential community, Senoia has garnered significant attention as a filming location for a range of television shows and films, most notably The Walking Dead (2010-2022). Senoia serves as an illustrative case study on the economic impacts of film and television production on a small town, especially screen tourism.


Prior to the production of The Walking Dead, in 2005, Senoia had five operational businesses. Despite having featured productions such as Driving Miss Daisy (1989) and Fried Green Tomatoes (1991), Senoia faced challenges in attracting projects due to Georgia’s lack of competitiveness in terms of incentives at state level. This changed when Georgia enacted the Georgia Entertainment Industry Investment Act in 2005. The first season of The Walking Dead was primarily shot in Atlanta – however,due to reported challenges in coordinating the closure of streets and parks, the remainder of the series was shot in Senoia. AMC moved the production to Senoia due to its scenic locations, particularly downtown Senoia and Riverwood Studios, now Raleigh Studios – Atlanta,[1] which AMC purchased in 2017 for $8.25 million.[2]


Senoia Main Street in 1999 and 2019.

Image credit: Suzanne Pengelley (left) and Simon Upton (right)


Aims and Objectives

Senoia has embraced the popularity of film and television productions produced locally and, in turn, capitalized on the economic benefits generated – from production, screen tourism, real estate and local business development – to rejuvenate the town.


Impact

Senoia has experienced significant transformation since The Walking Dead relocated production to the town, particularly regarding the economic revitalization of the local economy and main street. A resident and business owner interviewed in the context of this study reported that before The Walking Dead was shot in Senoia, the main street had five businesses, only servicing the local community. Now, driven by the number of tourists and wealth generated by the show, there are more than 150 businesses, and all properties on the main street are leased. More properties in the town are currently being built, demonstrating the continued level of demand.


Several of these new businesses are directly related to The Walking Dead series, such as The Waking Dead Café, the Woodbury Shoppe (named after the town in the show's storyline) and restaurants such as Nic & Norman’s (partly owned by The Walking Dead’s Greg Nicotero and Norman Reedus), borne out of the show’s presence in the city and offering an enticing attraction to fans of the television series. Nic & Norman’s has since expanded with restaurants across three other locations in the US. Each location employs approximately 60 people, with an average turnover of $3 million per year just for the restaurant located in Senoia.


Screen tourism in Senoia has been galvanized by the popular series. The main street has added stars to indicate various film and television productions that used the town as a backdrop or were filmed at nearby Riverwood Studios, the studio where The Walking Dead was also shot.


The Walking Dead fans fly in from across the world to see Senoia, and they spend their dollars in Senoia and in Georgia. And while The Walking Dead is the main attraction, other local businesses also benefit, from grocery stores to hotels to small shops and boutiques. It’s driving economic development through film.

- Lee Thomas, Deputy Commissioner, Georgia’s Film, Music and Digital Entertainment Division

 

[1]Note: AMC went back to the name Riverwood Studios after purchase [2]AMC buys 'The Walking Dead' studio for $8.25 million. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 25th October 2017. Accessible at: https://www.ajc.com/gdpr.html [3]AMC’s The Walking Dead brings surge in film tourism to Georgia. The Location Guide, 26th February 2016. Accessible at: https://www.thelocationguide.com/2016/02/amc%E2%80%99s-the-walking-dead-brings-surge-in-film-tourism-to-georgia/.

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