TCM Prime-Time Host Ben Mankiewicz Dazzles Fans at the Stunning “Art of the Hollywood Backdrop”

Blockbuster Museum Show Breaks Attendance Records . . .

Ben Mankiewicz, the prime-time host of Turner Classic Movies (TCM), greeted hundreds of fans and kicked off a series of Holiday events at the Boca Raton Museum of Art’s nationally acclaimed exhibition “Art of the Hollywood Backdrop,” now in its final five weeks of a spectacular run (on view through Jan. 22).

“I am honored to have been invited by the Boca Raton Museum of Art to be part of the Art of the Hollywood Backdrop, before this stellar museum experience concludes its successful debut,” says Mankiewicz. “There are so many avid film lovers and TCM fans in South Florida who loved seeing this exhibition, a testament to the power of classic Hollywood films.”

Joining Mankiewicz at the Museum event was one of the exhibition’s co-curators, Thomas A. Walsh, the Emmy Award-winning Art Director from Hollywood who served as President of the Art Directors Guild of America for three consecutive terms (the union representing Hollywood’s art directors, set designers and illustrators).

The Boca Raton Museum of Art presents the world premiere of this larger-than-life show, the first dedicated museum exhibition of its kind honoring the unsung heroes of Hollywood’s artistic DNA, going back through time almost 100 years.

“Through this singular exhibition, art lovers and film fans of all ages are embracing this collection of Hollywood backdrops almost lost forever,” says Irvin Lippman, the Museum’s Executive Director. “The world premiere of Art of the Hollywood Backdrop has shined the global spotlight on South Florida. We have seen a significant increase in visitors from throughout the U.S. and abroad.”

Art of the Hollywood Backdrop: Cinema’s Creative Legacy is on view through January 22, 2023 and honors the unsung heroes who created these monumental canvases for the camera, going back almost 100 years.

These are literally some of the largest paintings ever created in the world, similar to cyclorama paintings. Aside from the original cast and crew working in the sound stages when these Hollywood classics were made, no one else has set eyes upon this collection.

The exhibition was originated by the Boca Raton Museum of Art and is co-curated by Thomas A. Walsh and Karen L. Maness, who played pivotal roles among a group of passionate Hollywood insiders to salvage these American treasures.

The result in the Museum’s galleries is a magical portal that takes the terms “large-scale,” “immersive,” and “virtual reality” to a whole new level.

Mankiewicz, an award-winning television personality, film critic, writer and producer, made his TCM debut in 2003 becoming only the second host hired in the network’s history.

During his career at TCM, Mankiewicz has introduced thousands of movies on the air and has become one of the most renowned interviewers in the business, leading thoughtful and entertaining conversations with more than two hundred of the movie industry’s top talents, including Mel Brooks, Bruce Springsteen, Sophia Loren, Martin Scorsese, Warren Beatty, Ava DuVernay, Annette Bening, Robert Redford, Quentin Tarantino, Jodie Foster, Brad Bird, Faye Dunaway, Lou Gossett, Jr., and Michael Douglas.

The Museum has created a series of events for film lovers throughout December and January, more details at bocamuseum.org/visit/events. This exhibition of 22 scenic backdrops, made for the movies between 1938 and 1968, celebrates an art form nearly forgotten.

This is a well-deserved moment in the spotlight for the dozens of unidentified studio artists. Their uncredited craftsmanship made scenes of Mount Rushmore, Ben Hur’s Rome, the Von Trapp Family’s Austrian Alps, and Gene Kelly’s Paris street dance possible.

Art Directors’ Guild Archive Backdrop Recovery Project

Twenty of these backdrops, including the famous Mount Rushmore, are being loaned by the Texas Performing Arts Hollywood Backdrop Collection at the University of Texas.

In addition, a 1952 backdrop for Singin’ in the Rain and the tapestry backdrop for Marie Antoinette (1938) are on loan from the Motion Picture Academy in Los Angeles.

These creations were painted for the camera lens itself, not for the human eye. It is a very impressionistic style of painting ― not really photo-realism, but it snaps together as photo-realistic when viewed from a distance.

Up close they look totally different. When visitors to the Museum take selfies with their phone cameras, the resulting image will look very different from what they see in person in the gallery.

This unique concept of “photo-realism for the camera” was spearheaded by George Gibson, he took scenic art to an entirely new level of artistry. In the hey-day of MGM, they had three shifts of scenic artists working day and night, non-stop.

Some of these artists who created the Hollywood Backdrops came from a family tradition of the craft, with lineages spanning three generations of painters through several decades. The craft stayed within the family.

Most were trained as professional artists, yet they remained uncredited, sometimes because of union agreements, and mainly because the studios wanted to keep a firm grip on the secret techniques that were handed down from master to apprentice on the backlots.

The show’s immersive components include interactive video reels created in Hollywood specifically for this exhibition, telling the stories behind each backdrop.

Soundscapes have been engineered to surround visitors in the museum, including atmospheric sound effects related to the original movies, and to the scenic vistas.

About the Museum

Founded by artistsBoca Raton Museum of Art was established in 1950 as the Art Guild of Boca Raton. The organization has grown, now in its eighth decade, to encompass a Museum, Art School, and Sculpture Garden. As one of South Florida’s leading cultural landmarks, the Museum provides educational programs and a robust exhibition schedule to the community, and to visitors from around the world.

Support for #BocaMuseumatHome and #KeepKidsSmartwithArt virtual programming is provided by Art Bridges Foundation and PNC Grow Up Great.

See the Movie; Book the Trip: Film Destinations Are In

Special guest blogger Michal Laszuk has done an amazing amount of research to put together this fantastic coop on film tourism. Take a look at his post and for more info on Michal, see below.

We’ve all fallen in love with a TV show or movie at least once.  

Whether it’s Harry Potter, The Walking Dead, or Breaking Bad, there’s something about getting sucked into a good story that makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside.

But—

Did you ever consider traveling to a place you saw on Netflix?

If so, you aren’t alone.

That’s because film tourism (also known as film-induced tourism, screen tourism, and set-jetting) has been all the rave lately, with more and more people planning vacations around their beloved shows and movies. 

So at PhotoAiD, we’ve decided to reach out to 1,000+ Americans to unpack their experiences with this phenomenon, their attitudes toward it, and much more.

Let’s dive right in:

Key Takeaways

  • 96% of Americans have visited places associated with their favorite television shows or movies at least once in their lifetime.
  • 78% of travelers are likely or very likely to opt for TV- or movie-themed trips in 2023 and beyond.
  • The most common reason to engage in film tourism (35%) is to enjoy an immersive experience that lets you live out shows’ or movies’ storylines and follow in the footsteps of famous characters.
  • Lodging is the most frequently mentioned film tourism expense (60%), followed by transportation (53%) and sightseeing (50%).
  • Globally, the UK and Ireland are the most desirable screen tourism destinations owing to the success of Harry Potter.
  • Thanks to the Jurassic Park franchise, Hawaii was picked as the US’ most desirable film tourism destination, according to 31% of respondents.
  • 68% of Americans have a negative or very negative attitude toward fellow travelers striking irreverent poses or otherwise misbehaving when visiting the sites of actual tragic events depicted in shows or movies.

Film Tourism Is Gaining Momentum

For starters, we wanted to gauge the popularity of film tourism in the US at the end of 2022.

It turns out 96% of Americans have visited places associated with their favorite television shows or movies. This includes locations and destinations, popular due to their appearance on TV or themed sites built upon the fictional world.

Wow.

Although we expected the number to be high, we had no idea it’d be THAT high. 

It may be because we’re watching more TV than ever before, with the average person likely to stream 437 hours of content in 2023 (=18 full days).

Film Tourism is Gaining Momemtum

Here’s also a look at the extent to which respondents’ favorite movie or show was a reason to visit a particular spot:

For starters, we wanted to gauge the popularity of film tourism in the US at the end of 2022.

It turns out 96% of Americans have visited places associated with their favorite television shows or movies. This includes locations and destinations, popular due to their appearance on TV or themed sites built upon the fictional world.

Wow!

Although we expected the number to be high, we had no idea it’d be THAT high. 

It may be because we’re watching more TV than ever before, with the average person likely to stream 437 hours of content in 2023 (=18 full days).

Here’s also a look at the extent to which respondents’ favorite movie or show was a reason to visit a particular spot:

It was the main reason44%
It had some influence39%
It had no influence17%

At this point, we also decided to ask survey takers to rate their most recent screen tourism experience.

So—

About four in 10 Americans (42%) consider it positive, and 31% describe it as very positive. As a follow-up, we asked respondents how likely they are to pick one of their next vacation destinations based on their favorite TV show or movie in 2023 and beyond.

The results are in:

Likely45%
Very likely33%
Neutral16%
Very unlikely5%
Unlikely2%

As you can see, 78% of Americans are likely or very likely to opt for TV- or movie-themed trips in the upcoming years. 

Thus, it’s not surprising that companies like Airbnb and Netflix have already started to capitalize on the opportunity. 

The former has launched thematic accommodation options based on Scooby Doo, Moulin Rouge, and Queer Eye. In turn, Netflix partnered with the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) to “help destinations realize the potential benefits of screen tourism.”

Even governmental bodies aren’t lagging.

In fact, the official “Visit Albuquerque” site makes it easy for Breaking Bad fans to plan location tours and visit popular spots, such as Los Pollos Hermanos, Walter White’s house, and the car wash.

That shows just how much the likes of HBO and Apple TV are changing the tourism industry and travelers’ habits.

Scroll on to see what’s fueling this trend.

Key Reasons to Engage in Screen Tourism

People travel for all sorts of reasons.

Some want to check off their travel bucket list. Others are looking to dive under the radar and escape it all.

Yet—

When it comes to film tourism, here are the TOP five motivators, according to our respondents (the text version is below, just in case):

To emotionally immerse oneself in a place where the TV show/movie was filmed35%
To experience the city’s scenery shown in the movie or TV show34.9%
To visit restaurants featured in the movie or TV show34.4%
To discover a meaningful place with a story rather than visit a trendy destination33.9%
To visit a location one’s admired celebrity has once been to33.6%

The data shows that the most common reason to engage in film tourism (35%) is to enjoy an immersive experience that lets you live out your favorite shows’ or movies’ storylines and follow in the footsteps of famous characters.

It’s closely followed by the desire “to experience the city’s scenery shown in the movie or TV show” at 34.9% and to visit depicted restaurants, as 34.4% of respondents indicated.

These make sense, particularly if you consider TV shows.

Their slow-paced plot progression, long runtime, and character development often foster a deep connection between the viewer and the story. 

So—

It’s no wonder many people want to go and see the spots on their own.

Top Film Tourism Destinations, Ranked

So far, so good.

Now that we’ve answered some of the why questions, let’s move on to the where part.

To uncover the most desirable film tourism destinations in North America, we gave respondents a list of places famous because of a movie or TV show and asked them to indicate which one was their favorite OR which they’d like to visit the most.

Below are the results:

Jurassic Park (Hawaii)30.6%
Friends (NYC, New York)30.5%
Joker [2019] (NYC, New York)28.6%
Home Alone 2 (NYC, New York)27.9%
Big Little Lies (Monterey, California)25%

Thanks to the Jurassic Park franchise, Hawaii was picked as the most desirable film tourism destination in the US, according to 30.6% of respondents.

How does it translate into real numbers? 

Consider this:

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom alone has given Hawaii’s economy a $31M boost and more than $6.9M in wages to 1,200+ Hawaii workers. 

So you could say the movie has had a T-Rex-sized impact on the islands.

Now—

We also wanted to unveil the most desirable screen tourism destinations globally. Like last time, we gave respondents a hefty list of places and prompted them to make a pick.

See the TOP five results below:

Harry Potter (UK, Ireland)20.2%
The Lord of the Rings (New Zealand)18.1%
Game of Thrones (Northern Ireland, UK, Croatia)17%
Squid Game (South Korea)16.7%
Sherlock (UK)15.9%

The UK and Ireland took the cake as the most desirable screen tourism destinations globally (20.2%), thanks to Harry Potter. It’s followed by New Zealand courtesy of The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Northern Ireland, the UK, and Croatia close the top three owing to Game of Thrones’ success.

Needless to say, all the destinations ​​saw a significant, lasting increase in demand after said movies and TV shows came out. 

To this day, tourists take photos at London King’s Cross railway station, famous for featuring a fictional section known as platform 9¾ in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

Biggest Expenses Associated with Screen Tourism

Travel isn’t exactly cheap these days.

A pilot shortage, COVID-19-induced demand for travel, and higher fuel prices have all contributed to the recent rise in tourism costs.

So much so that ~9 in 10 vacation-goers (88%) had to downgrade their vacation plans in 2022, according to one of our recent studies.

That’s why we wanted to ask the respondents about their biggest expenses regarding film tourism.

Below are the results:

Lodging60%
Transportation53%
Sightseeing50%

As you can see, lodging was the most frequently mentioned expense (60%), followed by transportation (53%) and sightseeing (50%).

So—

If you plan to fly thousands of miles to get epic Instagram snaps from Squid Game in South Korea, be prepared to open your wallet a little wider.

The Dark Side of Film Tourism

It’s no secret:

Many popular movies and TV shows depict or are based on true events. As a result, some locations can grow popular among travelers.

BBC’s Poldark is a good case in point.

While the series boosted Cornwall’s economy, influencing 14% of all visitors to the county, it also gave rise to the so-called “Poldark effect.” 

The phenomenon caused bumper-to-bumper traffic making some communities feel unsafe, and potentially affected the sense of the Cornish identity.

So—

Our study also wanted to see if Americans know that film tourism can cause over-tourism to some of the most in-vogue destinations.

A total of 95% of respondents do.

Although we were pleasantly surprised by such a high number, it’s important to remember that awareness doesn’t always translate into action (after all, the “Poldark effect” came about for a reason). 

Now, as our last question, we asked the survey participants about their attitude toward fellow travelers striking irreverent poses or otherwise misbehaving when visiting the sites of actual tragic events featured in a movie or TV show (e.g., Chornobyl).

Below are the results:

Negative41%
Very negative27%
Neutral24%
Positive5%
Very positive4%

The takeaway?

Always respect the site’s rules and only take pictures when allowed. Otherwise, you won’t only make others blow a fuse but also give film tourism a bad name.

Stacking It All Up

There you have it.

A comprehensive look at screen tourism to help you stay ahead of the curve.

Now—

Did you ever engage in film tourism? Which TV or movie universe would you want to travel to?

Let us know in the comments below.

Methodology

We conducted an online survey of 1,060 US respondents via a bespoke online polling tool in October 2022.

The respondents were 66.8% male and 33.2% female. 7.6% of respondents were 25 or younger, 70.01% were aged 26–38, 17.1% were aged 39–54, and 5.2% were 55 or older.

This survey has a confidence level of 95% and a margin of error of 3%. Given the gender and age makeup of our sample size, the study’s findings are statistically significant for the population at large.

This study was created through multiple research steps, crowdsourcing, and surveying. Data scientists reviewed all survey participants’ responses for quality control. ​​The survey also had an attention-check question.

About Michal Laszuk

Michal Laszuk is a writer at PhotoAiD by day, an aspiring novelist and an avid traveler by night. Always eager to travel to the most underrated and less popular destinations, he now looks to the far east after seeing almost everything Europe has to offer.

New York City: Katharine Hepburn Garden

One of the wonders of New York City is the constant discovery of hidden treasures. And so it was when we came across the Katharine Hepburn Garden, a small fenced wonder of brilliant hydrangeas, viburnums, Mountain Laurel, dogwoods, flowering perennials, and groundcovers bordering the narrow pathways of this tiny garden. Located in the Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, the several times I’ve been there, the gates been unlocked and I’ve wondered through this delightful hidden-in-plain-spot in the city. Hepburn, the noted actress who delighted audiences for decades, loved gardening as the text, part of Parks’ Historical Signs Project, that’s a posted within the park, tells us. But it doesn’t mention Hepburn’s penchant for making brownies and I’m sharing the recipe here as well.

From the Park’s sign:

Katharine Hepburn was born on May 12, 1907, in Hartford, Connecticut. She graduated from Bryn Mawr College in 1928 and in the same year she made her professional debut in a minor role in a Baltimore stock company production of Czarina. By 1932 she was a star on Broadway in The Warrior’s Husband, followed in the same year by her screen debut opposite John Barrymore in A Bill of Divorcement. On Broadway Ms. Hepburn originated the Tracy Lord role in The Philadelphia Story (1939) before taking it to Hollywood a year later. In 1942 she starred opposite Spencer Tracy in Woman of the Year and began a twenty-five year relationship which included working on nine classic films.

Acting Kudos

Ms. Hepburn won numerous honors for her acting. She was nominated for twelve Academy Awards and garnered four Oscars for best actress. In 1962 Ms. Hepburn won the best actress award at the Cannes Film Festival for her performance in Long Day’s Journey Into Night. In the 1970s she worked in television, where she and co-star Laurence Olivier earned Emmys for Love Among the Ruins.

Her two memoirs, Me and The Making of the African Queen, or How I Went to Africa with Bogart, Bacall, and Huston and Almost Lost My Mind and Me: Stories of My Life were best sellers. Ms. Hepburn has always gone her own way, wearing slacks, refusing interviews, shunning autograph seekers, keeping her private life private, and all the while speaking her mind.

Garden Enthusiast

Hepburn was passionate about flowers and gardening beginning during her childhood in West Hartford. On Sunday afternoons the Hepburn family went for drives and walks in the hills west of the Connecticut River and during these country excursions that children competed to see who could spot the first Lily of the Valley, Bloodroot, Columbine, or Pink Lady’s Slipper.

When Ms. Hepburn moved to Turtle Bay with her husband Ludlow Ogden Smith in 1932, she transplanted wildflowers from her parents’ home to her backyard garden. She joined the Turtle Bay Association in 1957, and for more than thirty years she fought to halt the destruction of trees, to defend the sidewalks from encroaching development, and to protect mid-blocks from high-rise construction.

Garden Dedication

On May 12, 1997 community members gathered to dedicate the Katharine Hepburn Garden in Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza. The naming pays tribute to her lifelong love of flowers and gardening and thanks Ms. Hepburn for her commitment to the park and the neighborhood. A wide variety of species were used in the border planting. The plant list included birch, dawn redwood, and dogwood trees; mountain laurel, witch hazel, viburnum, rhododendron, hydrangea, and abelia; as well as numerous perennials, groundcovers, and ferns.

Katharine Hepburn’s Brownies, recipe courtesy of the New York Times.

  • ½ cup cocoa
  • ½ cup butter (1 stick)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 1 cup chopped or broken-up walnuts or pecans
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  •  Pinch of salt

Heat oven to 325 degrees.

Melt butter in saucepan with cocoa and stir until smooth. Remove from heat and allow to cool for a few minutes, then transfer to a large bowl. Whisk in eggs, one at a time. Stir in vanilla.

In a separate bowl, combine sugar, flour, nuts and salt. Add to the cocoa-butter mixture. Stir until just combined.

Pour into a greased 8 x 8-inch-square pan. Bake 30 to 35 minutes. Do not overbake; the brownies should be gooey. Let cool, then cut into bars.

This famous recipe makes a rich, gooey brownie as it only uses one-fourth cup of flour.

Mindy’s Book Studio: A New Publishing Venture with Amazon

Mindy Kaling, Amazon Publishing, and Amazon Studios just announced the launch of Mindy’s Book Studio, a boutique story studio that will publish books selected by Kaling from emerging and established diverse voices.

Mindy Kaling and Emma Thompson in Late Night.

“I had the best time working on Nothing Like I Imagined, and I am so excited to continue my relationship with Amazon,” said Kaling, about her last book, a collection of essays in which she reflected upon her new role as single mom, the perks of not having a husband, and her struggle with social anxiety. While dealing with all this, Kaling gets Kanye West’d (or should we now say Ye’d) at her best friend’s birthday, thwarts an “only in LA” crime, and learns what it means to have it all.

Starting later this year, Mindy’s Book Studio will be publishing books across genres, from fresh romantic comedies and poignant coming-of-age stories designed to make readers laugh—and cringe—to gripping dramas with unforgettable female protagonists.

Kaling, a multi-talented actress, comedienne, writer, and Hollywood-bruncher, is known for her insightful and hilarious books including Why Not Me and the delightful and upfront personal Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me (And Other Concerns). She currently has 11.6 million Twitter followers.

The partnership between Amazon Studios and Kaling will adapt material published under Mindy’s Book Studio as feature motion pictures which will exclusively stream on Prime Video in more than 240 countries and territories worldwide.  Kaling holds first-producer option on adaptations. Kaling has also signed her debut novel and new essay collection for publication with Amazon Publishing.

“I’m passionate about bringing unique stories to readers and viewers, and I can’t wait to help discover and support talented new voices through Mindy’s Book Studio,” she says.

From best-selling memoirs to some of television’s most beloved shows and characters, Kaling has entertained readers, viewers, and listeners alike for nearly two decades. Building on her relatable and hilarious take on love and relationships—as seen in her Amazon Charts best-selling essay collection Nothing Like I Imagined (Except for Sometimes) and Amazon Studios’ hit film Late Night (which she co-wrote, produced, and starred in)—Mindy’s Book Studio will expand Kaling’s beloved storytelling sensibilities to a new slate of juicy, unforgettable books that readers can access through subscription programs such as Kindle Unlimited, and in print and audio.

“We are delighted to work with Mindy and Amazon Studios on Amazon’s first-ever book studio,” said Julia Sommerfeld, publisher of Amazon Publishing. “Mindy is brilliant at bringing to life highly entertaining, funny, sharp, and bingeable stories, and we can’t wait to collaborate with her on discovering and championing must-read stories from new and diverse voices.”

“With her visionary voice, trademark wit, and tremendous artistic acumen, Mindy Kaling remains a relentless innovator in the creative community,” said Jennifer Salke, head of Amazon Studios. “She is a pioneering artist, remarkable role model, and philanthropist who continues to tap into global and cultural zeitgeists as a source for her refreshingly authentic storytelling. We could not be more thrilled to expand our collaboration with her across Amazon to not only showcase her incredible talents but also introduce new, dynamic storytellers to our global customers.”

Kaling is represented by 3 Arts Entertainment, CAA, The Lede Company, and PJ Shapiro. Sommerfeld, Lauren O’Connor, head of IP & literary acquisitions at Amazon Studios, and Carmen Johnson, editorial director of Mindy’s Book Studio, will work with Kaling to find unputdownable stories with the potential to come to life on the screen.

In 2023, Amazon Publishing will also publish Kaling’s debut novel, a comedic and twisty page-turner under Mindy’s Book Studio. In 2024, Amazon Publishing will publish a new collection of personal essays in print, digital, and audio, offering Kaling’s latest reflections on life, motherhood, friendship, and being a boss. Amazon Studios has acquired firFst-look rights for Kaling’s forthcoming novel and essay collection.