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W.Va. targets movie fans for tourism

/ Source: The Associated Press

Some are already tourist destinations — the former West Virginia Penitentiary at Moundsville, the New River Gorge and bridge. Then there are the uncelebrated places in cinematic history, like the Sharp and Sassy Glamour Gallery Day Spa in Parkersburg.

Across West Virginia are dozens of places — some high-profile, some rather humble — where films have been shot and money has been made. But the West Virginia Division of Tourism says they shouldn't be forgotten. They should be explored anew.

On Friday, tourism officials will begin shipping thousands of "Cinematic Footprints" brochures to welcome centers, convention and visitors' bureaus and other tourism venues, inviting film fans to take a closer look at the state's links to Hollywood.

Pam Haynes, director of the West Virginia Film Office, says that while production brings business in the short term, the Division of Tourism has long sought a way to sustain that interest.

The new brochure, a version of which will be available online later this month, aims to draw visitors back to places like those used in the 1985 film, "Matewan."

Shot entirely in West Virginia, the movie about unionization and violence in coal country used the historic town of Thurmond as the stand-in for the movie's Mingo County namesake.

While some structures have been razed, Haynes says tourists can still visit a church, train depot and the scenic overlooks that were used, as well as the nearby Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine.

The brochure is also packed with movie trivia, information about historic theaters that still show movies, film festivals and famous West Virginians, Haynes says.

While 27 films are mentioned in the brochure, nine are highlighted in depth:

  • "We Are Marshall" (2006), based on the true story of a plane crash that killed 75 Marshall University football players, coaching staff, sports commentators and flight crew.
  • "Bubble" (2005), about a murder in a Midwestern town and three people who work in a doll factory, shot in Parkersburg.
  • "Win a Date with Tad Hamilton" (2004), the story of a love triangle that develops when a small-town girl wins a date with a celebrity. It was partially shot in Fayetteville, which stood in for the Putnam County town of Frazier's Bottom, where the script was set.
  • "Supersize Me (2004) , a documentary about the fast-food industry and its impact on Americans' health and weight, shot by Beckley native Morgan Spurlock, with scenes at a local school and residence.
  • "Gods and Generals" (2003), a dramatization of the rise and fall of Civil War Gen. Stonewall Jackson, shot in and around Charles Town.
  • "Matewan," the dramatization of the deadly 1920 shootout between union miners and coal company security guards.
  • "Sweet Dreams" (1985), a biographical drama about country singer Patsy Cline, shot partially in Martinsburg.
  • "The Deer Hunter" (1978), a dramatic look at the way the Vietnam War shaped the lives of people in a small steel town, shot in and around Weirton and Follansbee.
  • "Fools' Parade" (1971), the story of ex-convicts trying to open a general store with money they saved while in prison, shot in and around Moundsville.