‘Sleepy Hollow’ could boost tourism for Salisbury
SALISBURY — If Fox picks up “Sleepy Hollow” and the show develops a devoted fan base, the supernatural thriller filmed last week in Salisbury could boost tourism and give Rowan County another reason to crow, a tourism official said.
“If the show is picked up, it will be additional exposure for Rowan County,” said James Meacham, executive director for the Salisbury-Rowan Visitors Center.
20th Century Fox Television won’t know until May 13 if Fox will air the pilot and pick up the series, but “Sleepy Hollow” already has generated tourism dollars in Rowan.
Many members of the cast and crew — which numbered between 150 and 200 — stayed at local hotels last week, most of them at the Holiday Inn, Meacham said. The tourism development authorities for Salisbury and Rowan County each receive a 3 percent hotel room tax.
If the pilot gets picked up, Salisbury could see fans making a pilgrimage to visit locations in the show, including St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and Bell Tower Park.
The production crew painted the white gazebo in Bell Tower Park black, and officials have decided to leave it, said Randy Hemann, executive director for Downtown Salisbury Inc.
“People that watch the show will have a connection with it and want to learn more about where it’s filmed,” Meacham said.
The pilot was shot in several communities near Charlotte. Elaborate scenes shot in Salisbury included chases, pyrotechnics and the Headless Horseman firing a shotgun from atop a white horse.
While fans coming to town would be great, the biggest benefit for Salisbury and Rowan if the show becomes a hit will be bragging rights, Meacham said.
“Sleepy Hollow” would give Salisbury and Rowan something to promote long-term, he said.
Some North Carolina communities benefitted for years with the exposure from long-running TV series, including “Dawson’s Creek” and “One Tree Hill,” both shot in Wilmington.
“When TV shows set up in a community and have an extended run, it does provide a continual boost to the local economy,” Meacham said.
If it’s picked up, the biggest immediate economic impact of “Sleepy Hollow” will be production, Meacham said. If the network orders several episodes and the studio continues to shoot in Salisbury, room nights in local hotels for several months will provide direct benefit to the community, he said.
The community benefitted by promoting the George Clooney and Renee Zellweger movie “Leatherheads,” which was filmed at the N.C. Transportation Museum in Spencer, for about a year, Meacham said. The movie “The Last of the Mohicans” became one of the calling cards for the N.C. mountains.
Even if the “Sleepy Hollow” pilot never airs, the production has helped the community by exposing more people in the film and TV industry to Salisbury and Rowan County, he said.
“The more productions that are done here, the more people understand the options that are available to them,” Meacham said.
As for dollars and cents generated from six days of filming in Salisbury, the studio is expected to cut a check to the city next month and pay several local private organizations for use of their property. The city is compiling financial information related to the production, as well as a list of permits and equipment rentals used by the studio.
Some downtown restaurant owners and merchants actually lost money during the shoot because a 12-block section of downtown closed every night at 6 p.m.
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.