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The ‘Fast-Pass’ For Films Made in Orlando, Florida

Here are five films I feel represent the diverse and eclectic style of filmmaking "Hollywood East" helped bring to movie theaters worldwide.

by Tony Taylor
March 7, 2022

Although nicknamed “The City Beautiful,” Orlando, Florida, is better known as the No. 1 tourist destination globally. And it all began with the opening of the Disney resort in 1971. With the success of Walt Disney World, more theme parks like Universal Orlando and SeaWorld quickly followed, making Orlando their home as well. Today, over 11 million people worldwide visit Orlando every year, making it the epicenter for family fun and unparalleled entertainment.

A colorful sunset over Lake Eola and Orlando, Florida with reflections captured off the lake. (Photo courtesy Getty Images)

However, before theme parks began reshaping Orlando’s future, Orlando already was a magnate for the entertainment industry. Since the 1940s, Orlando had already established itself as a prime location for Hollywood filmmakers.

 Film productions brought to Orlando would boast a wide collection of the most distinctive films ever to hit America’s movie screens. In the next three decades, Orlando would play a part in classics, like 1952’s “The Greatest Show On Earth” starring Charleton Heston. Other films using Orlando would be unapologetic exploitation pieces like 1964’s “2000 Maniacs!”

By the early 1990s, theme parks would partner with Orlando’s film industry helping create the greatest great boom in Orlando film. With the construction of the Disney-MGM Studios and Universal Studios production facilities, Hollywood heavy hitters like Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks and Ron Howard would bring their projects to Orlando. As a result of this filming activity, Florida and Orlando would receive the new nickname in the industry as “Hollywood East.” 

Even Agent 007 would visit Orlando and the Central Florida area with the 11th James Bond outing, “Moonraker.” This entry in the legendary franchise would become the biggest Bond moneymaker until 2012’s “Skyfall, starring Daniel Craig.

In this new and different environment outside of the studio-dominated west, Orlando and Florida were now able to make their own contributions and distinguish themselves in the world of cinema. 

Here are five films I feel represent the diverse and eclectic style of filmmaking “Hollywood East” helped bring to movie theaters worldwide.

Parenthood (1989)

Directed by Ron Howard, Steve Martin stars as Gil Buckman, a perfectionist who is struggling with the deficiencies of his children. He feels they reflect poorly on his ability to be a good parent. Meanwhile, Gil’s siblings only add to his worries as they face parenting challenges in the modern world.

2000 Maniacs! (1964)

The small southern town of Pleasant Valley was the scene of a brutal massacre during the Civil War. Every hundred years, the ghosts of the dead return. Three Northern couples are invited to the centennial, which turns into a deadly celebration as they are dismembered and barbecued leaving the last living couple to try and escape the bloodshed.

The Waterboy (1998)

Adam Sandler stars as Bobby Boucher Jr., the waterboy for the college football team, the Cougars. Fired by the coach (Jerry Reed), Bobby becomes the waterboy for the losing rival team, The Mud Dogs. When the coach of the Mud Dogs (Henry Winkler) sees Bobby beat up a player who is teasing him, he quickly adds Bobby as a linebacker making the Mud Dogs championship contenders.

Edward Scissorhands (1990)

Johnny Depp and Winona Ryder star in the Tim Burton classic about a boy built by an inventor (Vincent Price) who dies before finishing his creation leaving the boy with scissors for hands. Left all alone, Edward is discovered  and brought home by Peg (Dianne Wiest). Although as hard as he tries, Edward cannot adjust to his new surroundings as he is treated as an outcast because of his scissorhands.

The Florida Project (2017)

Director Sean Baker’s intimate tale of love, heartbreak, and hope is seen through the eyes of a child. The film is an honest look at the struggles faced by everyday people living and surviving. Ironically, the setting of the film takes place just down the street from the “happiest place on earth,” 

Disney World.

At the close of the 1990s, the new century would see a considerable slow down of film production in Orlando and Florida in general. States like Louisiana and Georgia began offering filmmakers better tax incentives and discounts to bring their projects there. But don’t take Orlando off of the filmmaking marquee just yet. Orlando’s box office remains open.

Tony Taylor is a writer/filmmaker based in Orlando, Florida. Tony works as a freelance DGA Assistant Director and film technician. With the acceptance of three films and one screenplay as OFFICIAL SELECTIONS in various film festivals, Tony has been a working member of the film community for 25 years. In 2016, Tony started freelance writing professionally, contributing works to several media outlets. Tony is also a passionate supporter of independent film. Tony also has his own podcast,“UnScripted,”a live interview/call-in show broadcasting every Thursday night on BlogTalk Radio. His ultimate career goal is to write full-time while also continuing to make...

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