Hotel movie moments driving sales

By Larry Mogelonsky, P.Eng., www.lma.ca

My big vices these days are movies and the occasional sports game. Midway through watching Scarface (1983), Al Pacino’s eponymous character strategizes his next move while lounging on a terrace at the Fontainebleau in Miami Beach. It occurred to me, “Can having a portion of a popular or iconic film set in your hotel work to increase your brand appeal in the long run?”

Cult films for millennials/gen-Xers
Consider the Fontainebleau. It has hit the silver screen many-a-time, notably in Goldfinger (1964), The Bodyguard (1992) and the opening example, which has had tremendous exposure and a definite ‘cult’ following amongst male gen-Xers and millennials. Do these appearances ‘legitimize’ the property as beholding a certain brand mystique in the customer’s mind? There’s little doubt that the Fontainebleau needed these movies to bolster its image.
Now picture yourself as a younger travel shopper, however, and perhaps such ‘hotel cameos’ could be leveraged to help win a few more bookings. Suppose the Fontainebleau posted the appropriate images from these popular movies under the accommodations or activities section of their website. “Whoa! We could stay where Tony Montana stayed,” they might say.
This association to the film can help bridge the gap to a future experience one might enjoy while on property. They liked Scarface therefore they will like staying here. With every hotel in Miami available for cross-referencing at the click of a mouse, the fact that this 80s classic took place at the Fontainebleau becomes a unique, albeit very niche, emotional selling point.
Ocean’s Eleven + Bellagio fountains
Better yet, the remake of Ocean’s Eleven (2001) prominently displayed the Bellagio’s magnificent fountain, which is already a unique point of differentiation for the hotel. People might choose the Bellagio over other luxury Las Vegas properties simply to have a front row seat for one of the town’s best landmarks. Essentially, whenever the cathartic denouement fountain scene in Ocean’s Eleven is on television, it’s a flashing billboard for the Bellagio featuring the charismatic faces of George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Don Cheadle, Matt Damon et al. – so star-studded a scene it’s impossible not to rubberneck, and, subliminally, convince you to stay there.

The Hangover and Caesar’s Palace

Next, consider The Hangover (2009), which, apart from some shenanigans in Los Angeles and out in the desert, took place almost exclusively at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas. As one of the highest grossing comedies of all time, it’s safe to say that this movie touched a fair number of people, particularly those in the gen-X and millennial bubbles. With all its raunchy jokes and laughs, recollecting The Hangover elicits happy emotions; feelings that might percolate through the brainwaves when a younger consumer is researching options for the next bachelor or bachelorette party.

Lost in Translation
Over in Tokyo, we’re struck with another unlikely contender in the breakout indie hit and Oscar winner Lost in Translation (2003). Lucky for the Park Hyatt Tokyo, over three-quarters of Lost in Translation takes place at their property; every syndicated run of this movie is a blaring promotion for the Hyatt … with Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson. Would this film singlehandedly convince someone to visit Tokyo? Probably not. But, by identifying with the characters on screen, viewers in turn identify with the Park Hyatt Tokyo and this will play a part when it’s time to crack out the credit card.

Tourism spikes in Middle Earth
And then there is the magnum opus of examples – The Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit trilogy. With stunning panoramic cinematography, New Zealand is undeniably Middle Earth, and tourism has spiked upwards by hundreds of millions of dollars to the nation’s two main islands as a direct result of the popularity of these fantasy epics. Instead of throwing its marketing capital solely towards the creation of a distinct brand image for tourists somewhere along of the lines of ‘Visit New Zealand Today!’, the government decided to also leverage an existing fan base towards its own interests.

A movie shoot at your hotel?

This harks back to another relevant hypothetical to ask yourself: if a film producer approached you about using your hotel for a shoot, would you jump at the chance? Again, a ‘no’ is perfectly logical. Even though you’d be paid for your troubles, you’d likely have to close shop for several weeks and the compensation would hardly match that accrued by occupied rooms.
But a ‘yes’ has some powerful advantages that you should at least consider before passing on the opportunity. Chief among them being that your hotel will be immortalized on film, and if the movie performs well at the box office or gains a ‘cult’ following, you might be reaping the rewards of this investment for decades to come. Mind you, there are a lot of if’s here, but it’s not every day a movie studio comes knocking at your door.

Larry Mogelonsky (larry@lma.ca) is the president and founder of LMA Communications Inc.