Friday, January 11, 2002

Dynamo who put city into movies steps down

By Margaret A. McGurk
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Over the past 15 years, Lori Holladay turned Cincinnati into a movie set for Tom Cruise and Michael Douglas and drummed up millions in business for the local economy.

        Today, she will announce her resignation as executive director of the Greater Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky Film Commission, launched from her home as a volunteer effort in 1987.

        Ms. Holladay said she stepped down to pursue plans to create a radio show and documentaries about “spiritual music performed in powerful places.”

        She will remain as a member of the film commission board of trustees and serve as a consultant until April, while the board seeks her replacement. Commission staffer Kristen Erwin will take over as acting executive director during the search.

        “There would not be any film commission without Lori,” said board chairman Glen Weissenberger. “But she has done such a great job in creating momentum for the film commission, I am sure we have a very bright future.”

        Serving as a specialized economic development office, the film commission touts the region to movie and TV companies seeking locations, and offers help ranging from casting calls to permit applications during production.

        Its annual budget of about $250,000 comes from grants from state governments on both sides of the river, the City of Cincinnati, the Northern Kentucky Convention & Visitors bureau, corporations and arts groups, plus memberships and fund-raisers.

        During her tenure Ms. Holladay sometimes clashed with public officials reluctant to share funds. In the mid-1990s, she warned that the commission was near extinction for lack of funds. Additional state funding, plus money-making professional seminars such as the Two-Day Film School, helped stabilize the commission budget.

        For years, Ms. Holladay lobbied public and private developers to construct a full-scale sound stage and production facility in town to attract more films, commercials, documentaries and TV shows. The project was briefly contemplated as a component of riverfront redevelopment, but never progressed past preliminary discussions.

        Despite such disappointments, Ms. Holladay presided over a busy movie-making period in the city's history. The film commission came into being at a time when so-called location filming, away from studio back lots and sound stages, was peaking.

        Twelve major movies shot footage in and around Cincinnati between 1987 and 1993, including the Oscar-winning hit Rain Man, which went on to collect more than $170 million at the box office.

        Beginning in the mid-1990s, location shooting in the United States fell dramatically, in part because of a boom in low-cost Canadian filming. Since 1993, only four major productions have come to town, and three of those — The Mighty, In Too Deep and Summer Catch — stayed for only a few days.

        Traffic spent about three weeks shooting in Ohio in May 2000, most of it in Cincinnati. The movie won four Oscars in March 2001 and made about $125 million in North American theaters.


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