The Rock is rolling back into Gainesville, this time on the big screen.
Now, the movie is back: “Rampage” starts playing at Regal Hollywood 15 Cinemas in Gainesville on Thursday, April 12. It’s a revival of a 1980s arcade game wherein the player is a giant monster set to the task of destroying a major American city while avoiding and fighting the military.
“Rampage” the movie is an origin story for George, an albino gorilla mutated by a chemical experiment launched by an insidious organization. Johnson, who plays a scientist involved with an anti-poaching unit who cared for George, tries to save the ape and America.
Tucked into a few scenes in the movie is a lush bamboo forest — the same bamboo forest found at Brenau University. With a bit of CGI, “Rampage” turned a dense patch of bamboo near downtown Gainesville into a sprawling forest.
But it’s not just “Rampage” with Georgia credits, and the list of movies made whole or in part in Georgia remains impressive.
Marvel Studios’ deal with Pinewood Studios in Fayetteville means “Captain America: Civil War,” “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” and “Black Panther” were all filmed at least in part in Georgia — and “Black Panther” just knocked “Titanic” from its perch as the third-most money-making movie of all time.
Johnson himself also has a long list of Georgia credits: “Rampage,” “Jumanji” and “Jungle Cruise,” which is in production this spring, are all filmed in Georgia.
“Basically everything with The Rock has been shot in Georgia,” said Melissa Simpson, laughing. “He might as well relocate.”
Simpson is director of programming at Terminus Conference and Festival in Atlanta, an annual film and gaming conference that is largely focused on Georgia content. A recent graduate of University of North Georgia’s Gainesville campus, Simpson has been involved with the festival for three years and has watched as the film industry in Georgia has erupted.
“Ninety percent of our professionals are based in Atlanta. We do fly in a certain number of people from Los Angeles,” Simpson said.
Being a film professional based in Atlanta means a very different thing than it might have 15 or 20 years ago. Serious companies are making their way into the Peach State.
“The companies that are coming in are starting to put down roots here. They’ve started developing relationships with crew members. Most of these production companies like to work with who they know,” Simpson said.
Marvel Studios especially has a habit of rehiring the same crew — location scouts, construction companies, caterers, extras and a slew of other businesses — as often as possible.
State lawmakers credit the boom in the Georgia film industry with the state’s tax incentives created under Gov. Nathan Deal.
“In order to get those tax incentives, they have to hire a certain amount of local crew,” Simpson said. “Those are people that are obviously getting paychecks, but the industry has affected so much because those production companies are getting hotels, they’re buying lumber, they’re hiring construction crews.”
That’s how the industry ended up spending $2.7 billion in Georgia in 2017 — an increase of almost 40 times from the industry’s spending 10 years ago.
Some of that money is creeping north of Atlanta.
The crews of “Ozark” are becoming familiar faces around Lake Lanier as the Netflix series returns to the lake to film its second season, which got the green light from Netflix in August 2017.
“Our main project has been Netflix Ozark — many locations, local talent hired — lots of local spending,” wrote Stacey Dickson, president of the Lake Lanier Convention and Visitors Bureau and the local “camera ready” organization that helps find locations for films, to The Times on Wednesday, April 11.
Dickson also noted that Hall County and Lake Lanier has been a growing location of interest to film and television producers. In 2017, Blue Cat Productions (which produces “Ozark”), EYE Productions and Magilla Entertainment secured permits to film in Hall County, according to the county planning department.
So far this year, nine production companies have secured permits to film in the county and another is in the process, according to the county business license office. Not all filming requires permits in the county, Dickson noted, but only those that could be disruptive to the public.
“We’ve had lots and lots of scouting — Disney, Amazon, Apple TV for film projects plus lots of TV,” Dickson wrote, adding that there are “many projects in the pipeline for later 2018 into 2019.”
As for why they keep coming back to Georgia, Simpson said it’s not just the tax incentives.
“Georgia can be any town. In the state we have oceans, mountains, swamps, lakes. We are really kind of an area you can get a little bit of everything. We’re really easy to be a chameleon,” she said.
“Not to mention Southern hospitality,” Simpson added. “People come here and they enjoy it.”