Pittsburgh hotels cater to movie stars and crews
As filmmakers continue to set their sights on the Steel City, area hotels are becoming accustomed to hosting movie A-listers and crews.
“When the (Pittsburgh) Film Office calls and says a film wants to come to Pittsburgh, we drop everything,” says Tom Hardy, past president of the Pittsburgh Hotel Association and current general manager of the Sheraton Station Square, which is undergoing a $15 million renovation. “It's become a very, very large part of our business.”
Hardy spoke on the topic during “The ‘Industry' Revolution: From Steel to Reel,” an event presented by Urban Land Institute Pittsburgh Young Leaders on April 8, which brought together people from Pittsburgh's film, hospitality and development arenas to look at the entertainment industry's impact on Western Pennsylvania.
Since 1990, Pittsburgh has welcomed more than 120 movies and TV productions, which have contributed an estimated $475 million into Western Pennsylvania since the implementation of the film tax credit in 2007. Pennsylvania offers a 25 percent tax credit to films that spend at least 60 percent of their total production budget in the Commonwealth.
The economic impact from films has had a direct effect on the region's hospitality industry — the film industry has booked an estimated 100,000 room nights in Pittsburgh hotels since 2007.
The Sheraton has hosted 25 percent of those stays. They've accommodated crews from films such as “Warrior,” “Abduction,” “The Road,” “Out of the Furnace” and more, and has served as a shooting locale for many. The Sheraton's Fountainview Room doubled as a CIA communications center in “Abduction.”
Hardy has watched the growth of Pittsburgh as an entertainment hot spot for years. He was working at the William Penn hotel at the VIP front desk when “Striking Distance” filmed in town in the early 1990s. When star Bruce Willis came to check in, he took one look at Hardy's name tag and laughed.
“He said, ‘Who put you up to this?' ” Hardy remembers. “Turns out all the characters were registered under their name in the movie.” Willis was starring as Sgt. Tom Hardy.
Dawn Keezer, film office executive director, says, while hotels don't typically publicize it when they host a celebrity, it sometimes become common knowledge during the stay.
Popular spots among the stars include the Fairmont Pittsburgh, where Tom Cruise stayed with former wife Katie Holmes and daughter Suri while the A-Lister shot scenes for “Jack Reacher.” The Renaissance is also a common celebrity haunt, with “Dark Knight Rises” director Director Christopher Nolan and his family staying there during shooting, Keezer says.
The presidential suite is the preferred room at the Omni William Penn Hotel, Downtown, says Bob Page, director of sales and marketing.
“When we do have a high-profile person, there is a certain focus placed on them,” Page says. “We anticipate demands that are out of the ordinary. We're prepared.”
Some celebrities do have some out-there requests.
“One asked for an entire bathtub filled with champagne,” Page says. “Another celebrity wanted us to put an outdoor garden on the roof.
“Some are really laid-back and not as demanding as others. We had one actress stay — who did have a nanny and her children with her — who wasn't demanding at all. She didn't ask for a suite.”
Lisa Smith-Reed, chief operating officer of Steeltown Entertainment, a nonprofit dedicated to forging a vibrant entertainment industry locally, says when it comes to booking hotels for film crews, the most important things are access to food, WiFi and alcohol. That has a “waterfall effect” that impacts a multitude of businesses, including restaurants, retail stores and transportation services, she says.
“Whenever $1 is spent on a hotel room, two to two-and-a-half times that is spent in ancillary economic development,” she says.
Rachel Weaver is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7948 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.