By Jennifer Larino, New Orleans City Business Online
On any given day, Jonathan and Michelle Ray can be found sitting in a white van with a group of strangers watching actor Jean-Claude Van Damme fend off a gang of street thugs on Frenchmen Street.
The passengers, ranging from Midwestern retirees to Finnish vacationers, nosh on popcorn and absorb the action. Soon the scene from the 1993 film “Hard Target,” set in New Orleans, cuts out from the small television screens attached to the seat backs in the Ray’s customized tour van. A few “oohs” and “aahs” escape as they look out the windows to see the same mismatched music club façades.
The Rays, owners of Original New Orleans Movie Tours and its only tour guides, relish these moments. “I like when they’re oohing and aahing because I know they’re enjoying it,” Jonathan Ray said. “You hear them behind me and they’re getting into it.”
In its first month of business, Original New Orleans Movie Tours has ushered dozens of tourists through local neighborhoods to the sites where iconic — and perhaps less so — moments in New Orleans film history were shot. Tourists pay $54 per person for the three-hour tour.
The business is one of the first in the city to cater to tourists interested in experiencing not just movie history but the movie itself. As live filming becomes more routine in New Orleans, the Rays expect to have some company.
City and tourism officials alike have called attention to the impact Hollywood film crews have in improving the city’s economy and its image. Since lawmakers established a state film tax credit in 2002, 139 films have been shot in New Orleans, according to the New Orleans Office of Film and Video.
Louisiana Economic Development estimates the movie industry has generated $1.48 billion in economic activity statewide.
Continue Reading at lafilm.org