Disney stars making presence felt in Central Otago

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MATT.TSO

@thenews.co.nz

Central Otago is abuzz with recent sightings of Reese Witherspoon, Oprah Winfrey and Mindy Kaling.

Wanaka locals said there had been a bit of chatter in the town regarding the cast and crew of A Wrinkle in Time, and those who have met the visitors have said they were friendly and relaxed.

Perriam retail assistant Bridget Cromie was working when Witherspoon came into the shop and bought a top last week.

She said Witherspoon had been very nice and even posed for a photo.

Ms Cromie said there had been excitement about the actors in the area and people had been into the shop to inquire about the top Witherspoon bought.

She said she had noticed more Americans around town last week and thought it was great people involved with the film felt relaxed enough to walk around the shops and restaurants.

“It’s cool that they can come to a small town and not feel like they are being harassed.”

Shop owners and retail assistants around Wanaka had mixed reactions as to whether businesses were making more sales as a result of the filming but all thought it would be great exposure for the area and could boost tourism in the future.

Film Otago Southland executive manager Kevin Jennings agreed filming was great for promoting places such as Queenstown and Central Otago.

“Look at some of the reach [the actors] have with social media. It’s astonishingly massive, and that’s before the film even comes out.”

Witherspoon, Winfrey and Kaling have all been posting pictures of themselves in the Queenstown and Central Otago area to their combined 19.4 million Instagram followers.

He pointed to other productions like the The Lord of the Rings trilogy and the industry which had been built around visiting filming locations and people wanting to see the landscapes from those films.

Mr Jennings said having large productions such as A Wrinkle in Time being filmed in Central Otago solidified the region’s reputation as a great film location.

“It’s absolutely massive. After the filming of Pete’s Dragon, it’s a real feather in the cap to have [Disney] back shooting in the region.”

He said the film industry also directly contributed to the economy with statistics in the 2014-15 year showing $35million, up from $20million in 2013-14, being brought into the Otago and Southland economy.

Though he said the statistics were a few years old, he said the amount of money the film industry contributed to the economy was trending upward.