The unpredictability of film-inspired tourism: example

Last week I was quoted in The Daily Memphian about a Memphis film incentive that projected $1.7 billion in tourism from the $1.4 million property tax break for filming a TV series in Memphis, “Bluff City Law.” (Really. $1.7 billion.)

I told the reporter:

“Tourism inspired by movies and TV shows is really not something that can be predicted, let alone relied upon,” said Jon Sanders, an economist with the John Locke Foundation, a conservative think tank in Raleigh, North Carolina.

“It’s like catching lightning in a bottle when someone creates something that so captures people’s imagination that they want to visit the area where it was set,” said Sanders, who is the foundation’s director of regulatory studies.

Here’s an example I saw yesterday. There is a new tourist attraction in New York City, thanks to the movie “Joker.” What is it?

A flight of stairs:

Thanks to Joaquin Phoenix’s dance moves in Joker, the stairs connecting Shakespeare and Anderson Avenues in the Highbridge neighborhood of the Bronx are the most famous set of steps in New York City right now. They have their own Instagram hashtag with over 700 tagged photos, and were also added to Google Maps as a “religious site” (the designation has since been removed).

All the attention has frustrated some residents of Highbridge. “We hope it ends soon because we don’t need this,” said Jonathan Francis, a 29-year-old who has lived in the neighborhood his entire life. “We feel disrespected.”

Well, OK. Can it be capitalized upon?

The Office of The Bronx Borough President Rubén Díaz Jr. stated on Twitter that they hope any visitors to the Bronx “decide to spend money while they’re here in our local businesses and vendors.”

But according to Brayan Feliz, 28, artist and designer, the tourists aren’t sticking around. Feliz said he saw people get out of Ubers, take photos of the stairs, and get back in their cars.

Jon Sanders / Director of Regulatory Studies

Jon Sanders studies regulatory policy, a veritable kudzu of invasive government and unintended consequences. As director of regulatory studies at the John Locke Foundation, Jo...

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