Monday, May 21, 2001

The premiere of the movie "Pearl Harbor" will be shown
on the custom-modified flight deck of the carrier USS Stennis.

‘Pearl’ ships
money to Oahu

Local vendors strike pay dirt
with Disney, but no one's
counting how much money
is coming to Hawaii

Boon for isle tourism
Navy eyes Ford Island projects

By Russ Lynch

Staging an international movie premiere in Hawaii is bringing lots of business to local entrepreneurs, according to those involved, but nobody can say how much.

Part of the reason for the lack of information is the decision by Disney's Touchstone Pictures to sign vendors and contractors working with it for the launching of "Pearl Harbor" this weekend to nondisclosure agreements.

"We're not allowed to talk about it," said Glenn Chu, vice president of Indigo restaurant, whose business will cater for 2,000 or so guests on the flight deck of the nuclear aircraft carrier USS Stennis for this evening's premiere.

Chu acknowledged it will be good business and said Disney seems to be spending a lot in the islands to launch the movie.

A union for workers setting up a stage, grandstands and lighting aboard the Stennis said it just cannot figure out how much is involved, but it is good business for workers whose work has been held up by threatened writers and actors strikes.

"I'm impressed with Disney. They're employing a lot of people, and they're treating my people very well out there," said Al Burns, a spokesman for the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees.

Burns said 75 people are doing 10 days of work, but he could not be precise about the financial impact.

At Tihati Productions, sales vice president John Tilton said the company will stage a luau at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel for the Disney people and their guests, but he declined to say how much it will cost.

Tihati Productions does not normally disclose information like that to the media, he said, and there is also Disney's desire for confidentiality.

Consolidated Amusement Co. rented two theaters to Disney for special showings, but spokeswoman Eileen Mortenson would say only that the deal is "revenue neutral."

In other words, the movie houses would be taking in only about what they would if they were showing the movie commercially, but she said the company would not give out details.

"Disney has not done anything different than any of the movie companies would do," she said.

B.J. Whitman, a spokeswoman for Starwood Hotels & Resorts Hawaii, said the several hundred members of the press here for the premiere, as well as Disney and Touchstone executives, are taking about 650 rooms spread through all four of the company's hotels in Waikiki -- the Sheraton-Waikiki, Sheraton Princess Kaiulani, Sheraton Moana Surfrider and the Royal Hawaiian.

There are parties and events, and there will be money changing hands for limousine services and in restaurants and bars, Waikiki shops and at attractions around the islands as the visitors, especially the press corps here for the premiere, get around in the days surrounding the showing.

No one can say how much that will bring to the economy, and neither can Disney.

"I have no idea," said Sasha Lord, one of the media relations people sent over by Disney to coordinate media coverage. She said she does not have the information, she was not authorized to speak about it, and it may be hard to find out because the vendors signed nondisclosure agreements.

She said the expenditure in the islands is a question that has been asked over and over by Hawaii reporters, but there is no answer right now.

A lot of the benefit for Hawaii is expected to come from views of the islands shown in the world's video and print media, more so than the direct spending to stage such an event, tourist industry officials said.

"There's going to be enormous exposure," said Starwood's Whitman.

Movie, media coverage
offer unprecedented
benefit to tourism

By Erika Engle

You can't throw a stick in town without hitting a Pearl Harbor movie reference. The same is true on the Internet, with sending e-mails about the movie to customers who ordered a military history book; splash pages promoting movie ticket giveaways designed for, and stories relating to the movie on the printed pages and Web sites of publications such as Hollywood Reporter and Daily Variety, Reuters Business and National Geographic.

This is to say nothing of related TV stories on "Entertainment Tonight," the History Channel's "Perspective" show and network newscasts.

The value of this media blitz for Disney's movie "Pearl Harbor" is not lost on those in Hawaii's tourism industry.

April Masini, widely credited with bringing "Baywatch" to Hawaii and now president of her own TV and film company, said the 400 media credentials prepared for today's premiere is the largest number she has ever seen. She could not imagine any other event bringing more press to the islands.

"You're getting publicity you can't buy," she said. "This is probably the biggest premiere that's ever been done."

Masini said the state should woo the media, taking advantage of their presence to promote the islands.

"You don't have the second, third and fourth string (covering the premiere), you're having the best of the best delivered by Disney. You've got to capitalize on it and leverage what you've got," Masini said.

Veteran advertising executive Jack Bates, president and CEO of Starr Seigle Communications Inc., said while advertising can be purchased, editorial content is generally not for sale.

He said he has a hunch the Hawaii exposure via advertising and editorial content for the premiere, the first-run play of the movie, home video and DVD release and international release, would have a value beyond what the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau and its predecessor has spent on promoting Hawaii since its inception in the 1950s.

"I don't think they had any idea when they got 'Pearl Harbor' it would be this big," Bates said. "Any time you can get exposure, you can convert it into sales."

Former state Film Commissioner Georgette Deemer said there are formulas for calculating value, but she believes the numbers would come from Disney -- and not for a while, at that.

"I think that it will become more and more apparent how important the film is to the state in years to come. We're still talking about 'Tora Tora Tora,'" she said. "This ('Pearl Harbor') is a very special picture, and it will continue to be special."

A less tangible benefit, she said, is in local self-esteem.

"I always had a feeling that motion pictures and television saw Hawaii in a very narrow focus -- sun and surf -- and what their experience as a tourist was, as opposed to the fabric that we have here, which is rich, and it has a history," she said. "Maybe 'Pearl Harbor' is not going to be historically accurate as a documentary would be, but at the same time it exposes our importance to the rest of the world in this historic event."

Deemer will be at tonight's world premiere. "I'm one of the lucky ones," she said. "There never was, during my 15 years, a movie premiere of this size and scope."

Pearl Harbor -- the place -- is already the state's top visitor attraction, and the movie is likely to generate more visitors.

Arianne Villanueva, administrative assistant at the Arizona Memorial Museum Association, said the visitor center has been overrun with media interviewing Pearl Harbor survivors, among others. She said summer is the national park's busiest time of year, and they traditionally increase staffing by park rangers and volunteers, but they do expect even more of an increase in interest once the movie hits the screen.

"I think we'll be ready," she said.

Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau President Tony Vericella said the most pronounced bump in visitors might not come for 18 to 24 months.

"A lot of people think we market something today and it happens tomorrow," Vericella said. But results take time, "especially with air travel. Everybody has to travel a couple thousand miles to get here. There's a period of time over which people make decisions."

Vericella said Hawaii already has a powerful brand image for, among other things, its natural beauty.

"Whether it's 1941 or 2001, those shots coming through the Koolaus, those don't change," he said. "That's a positive thing that's going to keep or push Hawaii into the forefront of people's minds and hearts and keep it out there."

Navy zeroes in on
commercial development
of Ford Island

By Bruce Dunford
Associated Press

PEARL HARBOR >> When wave after wave of Japanese dive bombers and fighters screamed down to attack the U.S. Pacific Fleet on a Sunday morning nearly 60 years ago, Ford Island was ground zero.

The 450-acre island that sits smack in the middle of Pearl Harbor has changed little and still has a few bullet-pocked buildings.

But as a new generation of Americans is taken back to that dreadful day through Disney's blockbuster film "Pearl Harbor," opening Friday, the Navy is asking for proposals to develop commercial attractions on the island.

The possible $500 million project would include modern housing, restaurants and movie theaters for Navy personnel in addition to approved private ventures that could bring in millions of paying visitors.

The Arizona Memorial, a free National Park Service attraction that includes a movie and boat ride to the sunken battleship USS Arizona, attracts 1.5 million visitors a year. Last week, the memorial announced a campaign to raise $10 million for expansion.

Many of the visitors also tour an adjacent attraction run by a nonprofit foundation, paying up to $24 each for tours of the USS Missouri, on whose deck the Japanese surrendered, and the submarine USS Bowfin.

On Dec. 7, 1941, the row of battleships moored along the south side of Ford Island was torpedoed and bombed while the Navy airfield, airplanes and hangars on the island were bombed and strafed.

The Arizona, ripped apart when a bomb hit its magazine, sank at its mooring 100 feet off the south side of the island. The ship is a tomb for about 900 of the 1,177 crew members who were killed. The Arizona is straddled by a gleaming white memorial that has become Pearl Harbor's most famous landmark.

Off the north side of the island, the rusting hulk of the capsized battleship USS Utah remains partially exposed, a tomb for another 58 sailors.

The flat island in the middle of the harbor looks today much as it did six decades ago, except that it is now connected to the mainland with a modern bridge.

The Navy seeks a private partner to build Navy housing and new military facilities on most of Ford Island in exchange for a lease of 75 acres of the island and acquisition through sale or lease of 1,500 acres of surplus Navy lands near Pearl Harbor. That phase is estimated to be worth up to $180 million.

Navy officials are not saying specifically what they expect the private development on Ford Island might include, but say it must be appropriate to the island's history and to the Navy's continued use of the rest of the island.

Representatives of 20 companies attended the Navy's briefing on the project earlier this month.

Interested developers are "strongly encouraged" to provide facilities and services associated with the historic visitor attractions, especially on the south side of the island, according to the Navy's request for proposals. The north side could be developed for industrial uses, it said.

"If someone comes up with a whiz-bang idea which generates lots and lots and lots of profit, then we'd have lots of money to do lots of things in a short period of time," said Capt. Jennifer Mustain, director of the Navy's Public Works Center here. She is the project director.

"The development of a historic visitor attraction which could include aviation-related displays would appear to be very compatible with the historic setting of Ford Island, and is encouraged by the Navy," Mustain said.

As with most things dealing with the military in Hawaii, U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye played a key role in the project.

Since World War II, Ford Island was of marginal use to the Navy because it could only be reached by military ferry service. The obsolete airfield was closed in 1962.

But that changed with completion in 1998 of the 4,652-foot-long bridge linking the island to the harbor shoreline, a project nursed through Congress by Inouye, a Democrat.

To pay for the $71 million bridge, the Navy in 1992 sold a 108-acre property in nearby Pearl City to the city of Honolulu for $108 million under a bill pushed through by Inouye.

Congress in 1999 approved a similar scheme to develop Ford Island.

In exchange for the more than $100 million worth of surplus property and 75 acres of land, the developer has to build 600 Navy family housing units, bachelor living quarters, new Navy operations and administration facilities, restaurants and theaters on the island.

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