Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser speaks Wednesday at the Petroleum Club of Morgan City. He's waving a copy of a 1997 newspaper article about his donation of a classroom to the Mr. Charlie rig museum.

The Daily Review/Bill Decker

Lt. Gov. Nungesser: Movie locations attract tourists; St. Mary has plans

Lt. Billy Nungesser arrived Wednesday at the Petroleum Club of Morgan City, bearing a piece of tourism intelligence: People oversees don’t just love American movies. They love to visit the places where American movies are filmed.

That dovetails with the local plans to celebrate two acclaimed and notable films with St. Mary Parish connections.

Nungesser spoke at a St. Mary Chamber of Commerce event sponsored by the Cajun Coast Visitors and Convention Bureau and by Hampton Inn & Suites. The lieutenant governor, whose office includes the Department of Culture Recreation and Tourism, extolled the benefits of bringing people to Louisiana: 47.1 million visitors last year, spending an average of $371 per person, generating $1.8 billion in state and local taxes, and directly or indirectly employing more than 233,000 people.

In St. Mary, according to Cajun Coast, the number are $58 million in tourism expenditures, $7.5 million in state and local sales taxes, and 830 jobs.

Nungesser said south Louisiana communities have suffered from the 3-1/2-year-old slump in oil process.

“The more money we can pump into those communities, the more we can help them through the tough times,” Nungesser said.

Movies, TV and the production of both seem to be big attractions in the United States. Nungesser said a recent survey showed that 9 percent of potential tourists outside this country said movies and TV heavily influence their decisions about where to visit.

He said potential visitors still associate Natchitoches with the 1989 movie “Steel Magnolias,” and “NCIS New Orleans,” which shot an episode on the Mr. Charlie rig museum recently, still makes people think of the Big Easy.

“People want to go where movies are shot, and where people are shot,” Nungesser said.

The last part was a reference to Bonnie and Clyde, whose crime spree came to a violent end in north Louisiana and who became the subject of a 1967 movie starring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway.

The Chamber, Cajun Coast and others have been making plans to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the silent film “Tarzan,” which was filmed around Morgan City and became the first of many film adaptations of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ adventure classic.

More plans call for a celebration of the 50th anniversary of 1969’s “Easy Rider.” The 1969 motorcycle-hippie movie made stars of Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper and Jack Nicholson. Portions of the movie were shot in Amelia and Franklin.

Nungesser spoke in Morgan City the day after introducing Gov. John Bel Edwards, who made a speech to open a two-week special session called to come up with a 2018-19 state budget. Unless the Legislature finds a budget solution, Nungesser said, his office is looking at a 30 percent budget cut, enough to force the closure of state parks.

“Tourism shouldn’t rank above health care or education or roads and bridges, infrastructure,” Nungesser said. But tourism has “helped hotels and shops hang on through the rough times.”

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