Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Filming plays a starring role in Maryland’s tourism industry

Kevin Spacey, director Joel Schumacher and actor Nathan Darrow on the set of Netflix's "House of Cards." Photo credit: Patrick Harbron for Netflix.

Kevin Spacey, director Joel Schumacher and actor Nathan Darrow on the set of Netflix’s “House of Cards.” Photo credit: Patrick Harbron for Netflix.

Take a look at the backdrop of some of today’s hottest television shows and films, and you might catch a familiar sight — that corner diner where you grab Sunday brunch, that library you pass on your way to work or that neighborhood square along the water.
A number of film crews are choosing Maryland as the site for their movies and television shows. The financial impact of filming on the state’s hospitality and tourism industry is both substantial and long-lasting, industry officials say.
Most recently, the state has served as the Washington lookalike for the Netflix series “House of Cards” and HBO’s “Veep,” which last week committed to filming its fourth season in Maryland.
The continued filming of “House of Cards” in Maryland sparked debate during the recently concluded legislative session, when lawmakers could not come to an agreement on tax breaks for the production. Producers received $26 million in tax breaks from the state in the first two seasons, but say the state’s financial benefits have far exceeded that amount.
While producers threatened to take filming out of Maryland for coming seasons, Netflix’s chief content officer, Ted Sarandos, told Wall Street analysts last week that the two sides could overcome these issues.
Over the course of the past decade, Maryland-filmed scenes were included in a slew of productions, including ”The Social Network,” “He’s Just Not That Into You,” “Step Up,” “National Treasure: Book of Secrets,” “Wedding Crashers” and “Syriana.”
The filming of the first season of “House of Cards,” which included scenes in Baltimore and Harford counties, required more than 9,000 hotel nights, according to Jack Gerbes, director of the Maryland Film Office. The first season of “Veep” required 2,500 hotel nights. Even the coming indie flick “Ping Pong Summer,” filmed in Ocean City, used about 2,300 hotel nights, he said.
It is projected that major filming in Maryland since fiscal year 2012 — which includes these projects — will result in about $237.8 million in direct economic impact, according to data from Gerbes’ office. Many of those dollars went to hotels, restaurants and other businesses that thrive on tourism.
For example, Season 1 of “House of Cards” resulted in the hiring of 2,193 Maryland crew, cast and extras, and purchased or rented goods or services from 1,814 Maryland vendors.
During shooting for “Veep,” vendors that benefited included Marriott, Charm City Cupcakes and Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar in Baltimore.
“Four Seasons Hotel Baltimore has benefited tremendously from the entertainment business,” said Judith Dumrauf, the hotel’s director of sales and marketing.
The film crews provide a source of revenue to hotels that extends over slower periods, she said, adding that “the local and national exposure has further improved the image of Baltimore, securing its status as a top, up-and-coming destination.”
But the casts and crews don’t just need a place to sleep. They also need places to eat, drink, entertain, shop and film. And that can add up to big bucks for the area’s businesses.
“Not only do the hotels themselves get a huge positive impact, but all the restaurants and shops around them,” Gerbes said. “When ‘Wedding Crashers’ shot in Easton, every night was like a Saturday night down there. The restaurants, bars, galleries and so on. So many new people were brought in.”
Some of the new people brought to the state are big-name celebrities, such as Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who tweeted out photos of Baltimore; Jane Fonda, who blogged about the charm of Annapolis; or Kevin Spacey, who mentioned Annapolis’ Metropolitan Kitchen & Lounge as a favorite hangout spot during an interview with Men’s Journal.
That’s the kind of publicity you can’t pay for, Gerbes said.
“Because they are quote-unquote celebrities and stars, a destination couldn’t even afford to hire spokespeople like this, talking about how lovely and charming it is,” he said.
And then there’s the long-term impact of having your hometown hit the big screen. Viewers become captivated by scenes of waterfronts, cobblestone streets and rows of shops. They plan trips, spurring a phenomenon that Gerbes calls “film-induced tourism.”
The 4,500-person town of Berlin, for example, was put on the map when it served as the filming location of 1999’s “Runaway Bride” and 2002’s “Tuck Everlasting.” The town, which still offers a walking-tour brochure of locations used for the Julia Roberts/Richard Gere love story in “Bride,” recently was named Budget Travel’s 2014 Coolest Small Town in America.
“We use it all the time: Come see the place where ‘Runaway Bride’ was filmed,” said Lisa Challenger, director of Worcester County Tourism. “It’s crazy, because it’s still hanging on after all these years. It has had a really lasting impact.”