JONESBORO “Rhett” and “Scarlett” may have strolled across Hollywood sets designed to look like rural Clayton County, but “Smokey and The Bandit” were the film icons who walked down the real streets of Jonesboro.
And, it was the post-apocalyptic survivors of “The Hunger Games” who patrolled Clayton County International Park while comedians lived through a “Scary Movie” in Lake City.
But, of course, that was after hunters fought zombies in the streets of Morrow.
Now, Jonesboro City Councilwoman Pat Sebo wants tourists to remember that these people were here with a county-wide “walk of the stars” to highlight locations where movies and television shows were filmed.
“I just thought it would be something interesting to generate some interest in the city and the county from a tourism standpoint,” Sebo said.
Sebo said the idea for showcasing filming sites in the county is still very young and she needs to talk with officials from the Clayton County Convention and Visitors Bureau and the county’s film office to gauge their interest.
However, she said she thought a star walk would be a good idea for Clayton County after reading a newspaper article about a similar attraction in Covington. Covington and Newton County tourism officials launched their star walk, which highlights television shows and sites featured in films and on television, earlier this month, according to the Rockdale Citizen, a sister publication of Clayton News Daily.
Newton County, and Covington in particular, has served as the filming location for several television shows over the years, including: “The Dukes of Hazzard,” “In The Heat of The Night” and “Vampire Diaries.” Ron Carter, the assistant director of tourism for the Newton County Chamber of Commerce, said 60 films and four television series have been filmed in and around Covington.
He said the self-guided “Covington Walk of Stars” tours have already proven to be popular less than a month after they began. He added the Newton County Chamber of Commerce expected the tours “to be huge” for the local economy.
“We’ve had a lot of ‘Vampire Diaries’ fans come and visit the town because of the series,” Carter said.
Grant Wainscott, the county’s economic development director, isn’t ruling out the possibility of a Clayton County trail of stars someday coming into existence. The economic development department includes a film office, which helps coordinate film and television shoots.
He said film and television productions can help a local economy in two ways. The first is through the filming itself, because of money spent at local vendors to build sets, buy props, stay in area hotels and eat at area restaurants. The second way is through the “movie tourism” created when fans of a film or television show come to see the filming locations.
“The movie tourist is looking for the full set,” Wainscott said. “They want to be able to walk on the stage where everything was filmed and they want to see the props used in their favorite movie.”
While Clayton County may have not been home to any long-running television shows, it has seen its fair share of movies come to town.
Just in the last few years, since Georgia implemented new tax incentives to attract films, several movies have been filmed in Clayton County, including: “Zombieland,” “The Odd Life of Timothy Green,” “We Are Marshall,” “Joyful Noise,” “Flight,” “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” “Devil’s Knot” and “Footloose.”
This fall alone, the county hosted film crews who worked on “The Hunger Games” sequel, “Catching Fire,” and “Scary Movie 5.” The Jonesboro City Cemetery also doubled as a cemetery in the Bahamas for the filming of a Lifetime television movie about the life of Anna Nicole Smith earlier this month, according to Sebo.
Wainscott said the county has been “fortunate” to get as many movie productions as it has gotten. But, he added the county does not have a single film destination city, like Covington or Senoia.
“Senoia and Covington are great little towns, but we’re not talking about the same type of situation here,” Wainscott said. “The majority of productions that have come to the county have not been shot in any particular location. They’ve been spread out all across the county.”
But, there was one movie that concentrated its filming in one part of the county — “Smokey and The Bandit.” Much of the movie was filmed extensively in the county in 1977.
Downtown Jonesboro doubled as Texarkana, Texas, in the film and keen film watchers will notice that the Arts Clayton Gallery is the “Coors Warehouse” Burt Reynolds and Jerry Reed broke into. Those same film watchers might also notice the intersection of Tara Boulevard and North Main Street is where the top of Jackie Gleason’s sheriff’s car was cut off when it drove under a tractor trailer.
Several other scenes were also filmed on North Main Street, South Main Street, Mundy’s Mill Road and North Avenue. The old Mundy’s Mill and a deteriorating wooden bridge over the Flint River were also shown in the film.
While Wainscott said he feels the recent “Hunger Games” filming may bring in more younger movie tourists than “Smokey and the Bandit,” he doesn’t downplay the importance of either film.
“‘Smokey and the Bandit’ certainly started us off as a movie community,” Wainscott said. “If you talk to people who were living in Jonesboro at the time that movie was filmed, they usually say it was so cool to see Burt Reynolds around town, shopping at the grocery store and hanging out at Lake Spivey. They are great book ends to this story, which is still being written.”
And, while Covington has placed a special marker to recognize deceased “In The Heat of The Night” star Carroll O’Connor, Sebo said Jonesboro could install its own markers to recognize the stars who came through town for “Smokey and the Bandit.”
“If we did one for Burt Reynolds, then we’d have to also do one for [Reynolds’ co-star] Sally Field,” said Sebo.