Image: Beverly Hills Hotel
Courtesy Of Beverly Hills Hotel
The Beverly Hills Hotel became an international star when "California Suite" was filmed throughout the property in 1978. Suite rates range from $900 to $2600.
updated 10/12/2006 1:53:05 PM ET 2006-10-12T17:53:05

In the 1996 summer blockbuster “The Rock,” a hirsute Sean Connery plays a master escape artist who's been incarcerated for three decades. The FBI offers to release him, provided he rescue some misbegotten hostages held at Alcatraz. Connery's character has only one demand: “I want a suite at the Fairmont Hotel.”

Ever since Alfred Hitchcock shot “Vertigo” at the Fairmont in 1958, the hotel has been San Francisco's leading lady. “Directors look to the Fairmont to capture the essence of San Francisco,” says Samara Diapoulos, the hotel's director of public relations. “People still come to the lobby and say: This is where The Rock was filmed.” Hitchcock should be rolling in his grave.

Hotels often play leading roles. Take the Park Hyatt Tokyo, setting of Sofia Coppola's Oscar winning “Lost In Translation.” “The hotel has always been on the world map,” says Karina Shima, international public relations manager. “But the film catapulted it to a whole different category and brought in a lot of people.” The hotel's New York Bar and Grill, the setting of several scenes in the film, is packed every night, and it's not uncommon to see guests sitting in Bill Murray's chair and taking photographs. And the LIT (short for Lost in Translation) cocktail, a mix of cherry blossom liqueur, cranberry juice, lime juice and sake, remains a popular drink.

A popular film can also create an entirely new market base. “How Stella Got Her Groove Back,” starring Angela Bassett and Whoopi Goldberg, was filmed at Round Hill, Jamaica, and brought legions of new fans to the resort. “Before the film, we didn't have a strong African-American following,” explains Josef Forstmayr, managing director of the legendary Montego Bay hotel. “Yet, after its release, it became a very desirable location, especially for weddings.” In fact, one of “Stella's” stars, Taye Diggs, married Idina Menzel at the resort. “West Wing” actor Dulé Hill also celebrated his nuptials there.

Then there's the monetary benefit of film production; a single shoot can bring in tens of thousands of dollars. At the Fairmont Royal York in Toronto, where “Cinderella Man,” “Serendipity” and countless other movies have been shot, there's even a film concierge. Kolene Elliott handles contracts, fulfills crew requests and oversees the filming while the crew is on property. “The movie business has opened up a new revenue stream for us,” says Elliott.

And decades after a movie's release, the benefit can continue. “People long for that Hollywood mystique where they make movies,” explains Amy Lemisch, director of the California Film Commission. “They want to get a taste of that Hollywood pizzazz.” The Hotel Del Coronado was the backdrop of the Billy Wilder classic “Some Like It Hot,” and continues to allure. In 1958, when access to the resort was only via ferry, thousands came every day to watch stars Marilyn Monroe, Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis shoot their scenes.

Fans still come in droves to idyll on the sweeping porch, walk the beach like Marilyn did and take in the spectacular Victorian architecture. Now that Tony Curtis is the only living star from the movie, the Del Coronado is particularly special as an immortal keepsake. “The Del will always be there,” explains Christine Donovan, director of Heritage Programs. “A lot of movies come and go, but I believe that 100 years from now people will still be coming because of ‘Some Like It Hot.’”


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