Bringing Movies Back to Tucson


I had the pleasure Saturday to meet Robert Shelton, no not the former President of the University of Arizona, the man that ran Old Tucson back when it was a thriving movie set. I can’t emphasize the word “was” enough. Old Tucson is only a shade of what it once was, after a devastating fire and a change in ownership, its never been the same.

This is from Old Tucson’s website about Shelton:

In 1959, Midwest entrepreneur Robert Shelton saw more than an antiquated movie set when he set eyes on Old Tucson Studios. He saw potential for expanding it from the ghost town it had become into a viable movie studio and family attraction. Shelton leased the property from Pima County and began to restore the forgotten town. Old Tucson Studios re-opened in 1960, as a film studio and a family fun park as well.

The park continued to grow, literally building by building, with each movie filmed on its dusty streets. Western film legend John Wayne, who soon became friends with studio owner Shelton, starred in four movies at Old Tucson Studios and each production added buildings to the town. Rio Bravo (1959) added a saloon, bank building and doctor’s office; from MCLINTOCK! (1963) came the McLintock Hotel; El Dorado (1967) left Old Tucson Studios with a facelift on Front Street; and from Rio Lobo (1970) came a cantina, a granite lined creek, a jail and Phillip’s ranch house.

The stampede of movie productions during those early years include, The Deadly Companions (1961), starring Brian Keith and Maureen O’Hara; Lilies of the Field (1962) starring Sidney Poitier ; Have Gun Will Travel (1962); The Outrage (1964) and Hombre (1966) with Paul Newman; and episodes of Bonanza (1966, ‘71, ‘72); Death Valley Days (1966-69); and High Chaparral (1966-’71).

Old Tucson Studios became the premier, privately owned, western film location. In 1968, a 13,000 square foot soundstage was built to give Old Tucson Studios complete movie-making versatility. The first film to use the soundstage was Young Billy Young (1968), starring Robert Mitchum and Angie Dickenson. That same year, Shelton also purchased the Mescal property, Old Tucson’s second filming location just 40 miles southeast of Tucson.

Tucson is really hurting for business, mostly because our city is run by people that either really don’t like Tucson and are trying to drive it into the ground (that’s a joke) or they are so tied to their leftist agenda that they are doing more harm than good.

There is a Senate Bill that we should all throw our support around.

Arizona Public Media reports back in April:

Senate Bill 1409 would extend a tax credit to movie productions companies that come to work in Arizona. The current tax credit expires at the end of this fiscal year, and SB 1409 would not only extend the credit but it would also increase it to as much as 30% if certain criteria are met dealing with the amount of money spent in the state and the number of Arizona residents hired for the production. Backers of the bill say it is needed to keep movie companies shooting in Arizona. They point to the 2007 version of 3:10 to Yuma, none of which was filmed in Arizona. Opponents, however, say the tax credit is too much and movie companies make enough money they don’t need the financial help.

On April 5, 2010 the full Senate failed the proposal on an 11-16 vote.

This would bring a lot of business to Arizona and hopefully turn Tucsn, not just Old Tucson, into a place where Hollywood can once again film some movies. With its natural light, great weather and short distance to California, Tucson is a great place for filming movies.

From what I can tell SB 1409 died in the Arizona House, I don’t know for sure. I’ve sent out an email in hopes of getting an answer to that question.

If you’d like to listen to last weekends Voices of the West program click on the link below and listen to or download the file.

Voices of the West 7-24-10

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