Michelle Rodriguez, Kate Bosworth and Sanoe Lake strike a pose in a publicity photo for "Blue Crush." The film was one of five last year that contributed to record production revenues.
Isle film revenues
hit new heights
The $146 million earned
in 2002 tops the previous
record set three years ago
Hawaii's film and television production revenues for 2002 were an unexpected blockbuster, hitting $146 million, 7.4 percent more than the previous record of $136 million in 2000.
Remarkably, the $146 million record came in a year when Hawaii had no television series. In 2000, the series "Baywatch Hawaii" filmed its final season here, spending more than $22 million.
Estimates earlier this year of 2002's production revenues were $133 million, but that didn't account for about $10 million spending for Hawaii sporting events like the Pro Bowl, Hula Bowl and Ironman Triathlon, Hawaii Film Office officials said.
The $146 million figure is a 76 percent increase over 2001's $83 million in production revenues, which was the lowest total since 1997's $71 million.
Hawaii's production revenues since 1996 have more than doubled despite Hawaii's higher business costs, the need to ship equipment thousands of miles, and other logistical problems of filming in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
"Hollywood has always appreciated Hawaii's versatility in being able to double for other exotic locations and being just five hours away," said Donne Dawson, Hawaii Film Office manager. "But there's also much more awareness of global events, which highlights Hawaii as a very safe haven."
More recently, Hawaii has stepped up competition in attracting productions with new or improved financial incentives, including Act 221. A major value of the act has been to draw producers' attention. Since Act 221 was enacted two years ago, two feature films -- "Blue Crush" and "The Big Bounce" -- have qualified for its investment credits.
Producer Arnold Rifkin said he chose Hawaii to represent the African setting of "Hostile Rescue" because it is a safe, U.S. locale and he had been told that the crew was "first rate."
"The local crew was extraordinary," Rifkin said. "There was not one thing they couldn't do. And hiring local saves productions hundreds of thousands of dollars from having to bring workers in from Los Angeles," he said.
Still, he said, filming on Windward Oahu was the most difficult of any picture he's produced because of the heavy rains and mud.
Director John Stockwell said he hopes to have his next film, "After the Sunset," starring Pierce Brosnan, rewritten from a Virgin Islands location to Hawaii.
"Some Hollywood people view Hawaii as this vacation location where serious work isn't done," Stockwell said. "I've never had harder working crews who spent hours lugging equipment through sand or out into a very unforgiving ocean."
Dawson, of the Hawaii Film Office, noted, "The state has taken a significant step forward from being a $100 million a year industry to $150 million a year, and even that's probably only half of what Hawaii could bring in given the right combination of factors.
"We're very pleased, but we can't sit back and relax. Hawaii's production industry needs sustainability and constant growth."
Last year's record production revenues largely came from five major feature films that spent a total of $76.6 million.
"Hostile Rescue" spent five months filming on Oahu and about $40 million, Rifkin said. The other films were "The Big Bounce," which was shot over three months on Oahu; "Blue Crush"; "Helldorado," starring former Hawaii resident Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson; and "Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle," which filmed portions in Hawaii.
Episodic TV shows or specials' revenues last year doubled from $7.75 million to $15.2 million. These shows included "The Bachelor," "Janet Jackson -- HBO Live," "ER," "One Life to Live," "High School Reunion," "My Wife and Kids," Disney's "The Stevens Get Even," "The Travel Show," "Baywatch Hawaiian Wedding," "Celebrity Mole Hawaii," "The Last Resort" and WB's "Boarding House: North Shore."
The first six months of 2003 ending June 30 has seen production revenues of about $50.2 million, well below 2002's $91.7 million for the same time period. But last year's figures include major spending by "Hostile Rescue" and "Blue Crush."
The second half of 2003 looks slow with only one production, NBC's episodic series "Average Joe," committing to film in Hawaii. The hour-long reality series will shoot nine episodes in five weeks next month on the Big Island, spending at least $5 million.
But Dawson said state and county film offices are getting many inquiries from studios about filming here. "They're talking with us, but no one has stepped up to the plate yet," she said.