Karen Bannister of Tourism Vancouver Island and Joan Miller of Vancouver Island North Film Commission are excited to announce the new partnership between their organizations (Cole Schisler photo)

Mid- Island celebrates Sonic the Hedgehog première

Tourism Vancouver Island and Vancouver Island North Film Comission look to leverage film tourism

Sonic the Hedgehog debuted Wednesday night at an advance screening in Nanaimo.

The long-awaited Vancouver Island-filmed Paramount picture was met with excitement by movie-goers who all played a role in the development of the film.

Carrie Davis, who played an extra in the film, said she was excited to finally see Sonic in theatres. She’s looking forward to see whether her scene made it into the film.

RELATED: Paramount budgets $7M for Sonic the Hedgehog movie shoot in ‘hero town’ Ladysmith

“Even if I didn’t make it in the movie, it’s still really cool because I got to have an awesome experience,” Davis said. “I was upset about the delay, but also really happy they took the time to make it better. I’m excited to see what they came up with.”

Tourism Vancouver Island, in partnership with Vancouver Island North Film Commission organized the advance screening at Landmark Cinemas in Nanaimo to celebrate the growing film industry on Vancouver Island. Representatives from local governments of Ladysmith, Nanaimo, Lantzville, Parksville, and Courtenay were in attendance; as were cast, crew, and local business owners. In total, over 200 stakeholders were invited to the screening.

Tourism Vancouver Island and Vancouver Island North Film Commission announced a new film-tourism partnership before the screening.

“This is the launch of our more formal relationship, and we have a lot more plans in the works,” Joan Miller of Vancouver Island North Film Commission said.

Miller said that Ladysmith was ideal to fit the needs of many different scripts because of its small town feel. What’s good about productions like Sonic, is that they provide employment opportunities for locals as extras, and crew. Productions also bring tangible economic benefits to businesses and hotels in the region where they’re filmed.

RELATED: Ladysmith storefronts transformed for Sonic the Hedgehog movie

“The word is out that Vancouver Island is now the hot spot for business,” Miller said. “We have a couple of different television series that are coming back here, we’re building our training programs, and we have our studio. We have infrastructure, we have crew, and we have a collaborative organization between tourism, and our local governments who all want to make film one of their diversified sectors.”

Miller anticipates more studios will be built beyond the existing Vancouver Island Film Studios in Parksville.

Karen Bannister, director of destination marketing for Tourism Vancouver Island said that film provides a unique and sustainable opportunity for tourism in the region.

“Its an opportunity where other countries have seen growth. It’s a growth where the consumer is really connected to seeing the locations, and they’re connected to staying longer term. For us, that’s a more sustainable visitor, and we’re happy to welcome them,” she said.

Mayor of ‘Green Hills’, Aaron Stone spoke at the event and commended the efforts put forth to make Sonic happen.

“As we look to diversify our economies, build on the foundation that we have with forestry and so many important things we’re struggling with right now, things like film, adventure tourism, and film tourism is a way that we can diversify and build strengths,” Stone said.

RELATED: New Sonic the Hedgehog trailer shows off Ladysmith and new character animation

It’s estimated that the film industry brings $6.2 billion annually to the B.C. economy – and 109,000 people are employed in the B.C. film industry. Tourism Vancouver Island has launched a tourism sweepstakes that will be advertised in major American markets to attract tourists who want to enjoy the green hills of Ladysmith and area beyond the silver screen.

Sonic the Hedgehog opens in theatres everywhere February 14.

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