La La Land lures tourists to LA locations featured in film

LOS ANGELES • La La Land has sent droves of movie fans to Los Angeles locations featured in the Oscarnominated film and now, Warner Bros is getting in on the act by resurrecting the coffee shop from the film for its studio tour.

Visitors on its US$62 (S$88) basic tour or US$295 deluxe package in Burbank, California, can see a pop-up version of the store, where Mia, played by Emma Stone, struggled to make ends meet while juggling auditions in Hollywood.

La La Land was made by Lions Gate Entertainment, an independent film and TV company, but several scenes were shot on the Warner lot and Mia's job in the studio coffee shop was part of the story.

The film has sparked visitor interest in a number of iconic Los Angeles sites, as well as businesses shown in the film, from the Griffith Observatory featured in the James Dean drama Rebel Without A Cause (1955) to the Lighthouse Cafe in Hermosa Beach city.

With Time Warner's film division playing a role in the picture, tour patrons started asking guides about the movie, leading the studio to make it part of the attraction.

"Guests do ask," said Warner Bros spokesman Carly Yates. "They say, 'Where's the cafe?' And it's not a real cafe. It's a facade."

For Warner Bros, which has rented out its vast lot for other films, such as Spider-Man (2002), it makes sense to call out La La Land.

The film swept the Golden Globe Awards, is nominated for a record 14 Academy Awards and has taken in more than US$300 million in worldwide ticket sales. With help from Lions Gate, the studio reconstructed the fictional coffee shop, which will be a part of the tour until March 6.

Seeing the key locations requires some driving and patience in Los Angeles traffic. It can take 11/2 hours to travel the roughly 40km from Warner Bros to the Lighthouse Cafe, a Hermosa Beach jazz bar frequented by Ryan Gosling's character, Sebastian. That is near the city's pier, where Gosling sings the film's feature song, City Of Stars.

Lighthouse general manager Steven Grehl said his bar sales have spiked more than 13 per cent in the past three months. He petitioned to keep the sign added by the movie's production designers as a permanent part of the cafe after noticing young people lining up to take photos in front of it. He also plans to add more La La Land artwork and photos in the cafe.

"We're going to ride this wave now. Regardless of what happens in the award season, we don't think it will fade," he said.

Of course, to benefit from the attention, a business has to be open. The Rialto Theatre in South Pasadena, where Mia and Sebastian watch Rebel Without A Cause, has been closed for years except for a few private events, said Mr Escott Norton, founding president of a non-profit group pushing for its restoration.

"People stop to take pictures almost every day, and all because of La La Land," he said in an e-mail. "I've spoken to people from all over California, as well as New York, Texas and as far as Japan."

The city of Los Angeles recently awarded the film a "Made in Hollywood Honor" for location manager Robert Foulkes and others' efforts to shoot almost entirely in Los Angeles.

Other iconic sites included downtown's Grand Central Market and a major freeway interchange south of downtown, where the opening dance number was shot.

The fact that this movie was filmed locally "made a lot of people very happy", said Ms Kim MacMullan, president of the Hermosa Beach Chamber of Commerce.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 23, 2017, with the headline 'La La Land lures tourists to LA locations featured in film'. Print Edition | Subscribe