'Transformers 3' film work having $2M impact on area economy
Billy Graham says he got an unexpected visit to his Cape Canaveral Italian restaurant last week that resulted in a mini-business boom. The visitor was a representative of the film "Transformers 3," asking Graham if he could handle catering for a large crowd.
Thanks to that visit, Billy and Shiloh Graham's restaurant, Papa Vito's on North Atlantic Avenue, is providing meatballs, sausage and peppers, pizza, chicken wings, sandwiches and other items for 300 "Transformers 3" crew members at a time.
The restaurateurs are among local businesspeople benefiting from the filming of "Transformers 3" at Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, which Space Coast Film Commissioner Bonnie King estimated is bringing a $2 million-plus boost to the local economy.
"It definitely helps our hotel room occupancy," King said.
At the Hilton Cocoa Beach Oceanfront on North Atlantic Avenue, General Manager Debra Green said rooms are sold out for a nine-day stretch because about 140 people on the film crew are staying there. . Green said she was able to add about 15 people to the staff roster for the week who otherwise might not be working, including housekeepers and servers.
Other Cocoa Beach-area hotels also are busy with the bookings by the other 160 or so movie crew members in town.
Green said the hotel was first contacted in April by representatives of "Transformers 3" about the possibility of booking rooms there in the fall. Filming schedules moved around a bit since then, but, with this being a relatively slow period for Cocoa Beach-area hotels, the film crew coming here is a welcome development.
"This group is phenomenal," Green said. "It has really made our October."
Brett Darlington, general manager of the Best Western Ocean Beach Hotel & Suites on North Atlantic Avenue in Cocoa Beach, said he rented about 50 rooms at his hotel for an average of nine nights to the crew.
"""It's a bonus for business," Darlington said.The film crew bookings boosted the room occupancy at Darlington's 230-room hotel to about 60 percent of capacity, compared with the less than 40 percent occupancy it would have been without them. It also allowed Darlington to give work shifts to four additional housekeepers.
Local filming, which began Oct. 1, is expected to wrap up today, with the crew checking out over the weekend and heading to Washington, D.C., for more shooting.
Cheryl Lindsey, assistant general manager of Milliken's Reef restaurant at Port Canaveral, said about 50 to 60 "Transformers 3" actors and crew members stopped there at various times over the weekend for dinner and a dance party. Customers included some of the film's stars.
"It's been an awesome economic boost," Lindsey said.
She declined to say which actors showed up at the restaurant, but said they are well-known.
Big-name actors in "Transformers 3" include Josh Duhamel, Shia LaBoeuf, Frances McDormand and John Turturro, as well as Victoria's Secret model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley.
For Graham, the "Transformers 3" work was unexpected. He said a local hotel official recommended his relatively small 60-seat restaurant as one that can handle a large catering job. While a specialized film industry catering company coordinates the main meals on set, Graham provides additional food.
He said he finds out on short notice what the food order is for the day. One day this week, for example, he got a call from the set at 5 p.m., asking for 60 pizzas to be ready in two hours. Another day, it was an order of sandwiches for 300, made on a special nine-grain bread he had to get from a local bakery.
"Transformers 3" gave Graham's business a 75 percent increase in sales this week. "It is a great honor to know we have participated in such a great film. On top of the catering jobs, a lot of the crew eat at our restaurant after filming stops at night."
A local Publix supermarket also is helping feed the crew, providing sandwiches and Gatorade, according to Publix spokesman Dwaine Stevens.
"We are very grateful for the business," Stevens said.Contact Berman at 321-360-1016 or email@example.com.