It’s been a little over a month since the premiere of “Safe Haven,” and locals say Southport stores and restaurants, as well as its tourism, have benefited greatly from exposure generated by the movie.
A consensus among business owners is that the film has brought more day-trippers and those looking to experience a little slice of how life in Southport was portrayed on the big screen.
Several local businesses, particularly around the Yacht Basin, and along Moore Street, saw significant screen-time in the movie, benefiting from shots which featured their name or building, things that keen-eyed visitors noticed and seek out.
“So far, it has probably been our best spring ever,” Fishy Fishy Café owner Bridget Chirico said. “Our business this time of the year, which is always good, has been better than last year despite the cooler temperatures.”
Chirico said many people come looking for Ryan’s Port Market, a set that was leveled following a controlled burn as part of the movie story, but they at least can see the location and houses beside the Yacht Basin shown during filming there.
“We put a little sign up that said “Safe Haven: One Block” and people came out just to get photographs of that,” she said.
Other businesses have successfully tapped into the movie’s popularity, selling items that have a connection with the production.
At Ricky Evans Gallery on North Howe Street, a section of one room has been devoted to prints and drawings of locations seen in the movie. A sign on the sidewalk has helped attract business through the door.
“We’ve seen a lot of foot traffic and business,” Debbie Evans said. “Even on Sundays, when we are not even open, we’ll see people come by when we are here working.”
Evans said she had met people coming just to see the place where the movie was filmed and set.
“I met a couple from Dillon, South Carolina, who had driven up to stay here just to be where the movie was filmed,” she said. “I’ve talked to people from other states, and all over the place, who have come into town to see families or spend some time in their second homes. It has had a definite impact.”
Owner Renee Ward of Renee’s Fine Jewelry is selling “Safe Haven” pendants, featuring a bicycle, in her store.
“We don’t know yet how long- or short-lived this will be, but it is exciting to have something that attracts people to our community,” she said. “We are glad to be able to tap into that market.”
Even businesses not necessarily associated with or seen in the film are seeing a bounce just by calling Southport their home.
“We are seeing a lot of day-trippers and people just wandering around,” Ocean Outfitters co-owner Patrick Jones said. “The amount of foot traffic we’ve had lately has been great. We are preparing for our busiest summer ever.”
Meezie Childs, owner of Lois Jane’s Bed and Breakfast and the Riverside Motel, said that people staying at her establishments often ask about where filming takes place and enjoyed watching work on the “Under the Dome” scene the last couple weeks. Lois Jane’s was recently featured as part of a trip package in a “Showcase Showdown” on “The Price is Right” game show.
“I think the film industry has to be credited for some of the business we’ve been getting,” she said. “We get a lot of calls, and summer is filling up rapidly, including weddings.”
City tourism director Cindy Brochure said that guided tours being offered from the Fort Johnston Visitors Center have been well-attended, and she is currently working on a way to count the number of visitors who stop in due to the movie.
“We have two guided tours that are approved by the city, and they have done great. We are anticipating even more capacity crowds this summer,” Brochure said.
It’s also good news for the local movie theatre.
“The first week was phenomenal, obviously,” Surf Cinema assistant manager Elizabeth Van Meter said. “The past few weekends have seen good crowds, sometimes as many as 100 for a showing. Typically during the week we are seeing crowds ranging from 50 to 80 people for some shows.”
Van Meter said the theater owners have plans to bring the movie back for re-screening at some point during the summer, although specific dates have not yet been announced.
“We will schedule it once it gets closer,” she said.
The movie, which ran a budget of $28-million, has grossed over $75-million worldwide as of March 18, according to boxoffice.com.