Trendsetters: Atlanta Movie Tours
From zombies to Margaret Mitchell, Captain America to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., visitors to Atlanta and residents alike have the chance to walk in the footsteps of the famous and influential. Atlanta Movie Tours makes it possible.
The idea for Atlanta Movie Tours sprouted from two friends’ conversations about the popular TV show The Walking Dead. Co-founder Carrie Burns used to take visiting friends to locations where The Walking Dead’s first season was filmed, and her founding counterpart, Patti Davis, suggested they turn those casual tours into a business.
That was 2012, and in five short but growth-filled years, Atlanta Movie Tours has expanded to more than 30 tours a week with 10 themed options – four of which focus on The Walking Dead – operating from two metro locations: downtown Atlanta’s Castleberry Hill neighborhood and Senoia. The original staff of two has grown to 24, most of whom are experienced actors who offer fans unique, behind-the-scenes anecdotes from the popular movie and TV sets they’ve worked on.
“We decided it would be better to have people from the [film] industry and the sets being the tour guides,” Burns says. “We had a good number of people interested. As actors, they have the flexibility in their schedule – they’re not locked into a nine-to-five job.”
Along with three different bus tours and a walking tour to The Walking Dead production locations, the company now offers an Atlanta Heritage Tour that combines Dr. King’s birthplace with locations where movies like Hidden Figures and award-winning television shows like Atlanta were filmed. The Castleberry Hill Backlot Walking Tour takes in the hot spots for movies like Taken 3, Driving Miss Daisy and Tyler Perry’s Good Deeds and Temptation. The Hero Tour focuses on the Marvel Universe, including locales for Captain America: Civil War, Ant-Man and Spiderman: Homecoming. And Scarlett and Rhett come to life on Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind Tour. The company also offers customized group excursions.
With revenue rising nearly 300 percent in the past few years, Atlanta Movie Tours has received numerous accolades, not the least of which is being named a 2017 Georgia Small Business Rock Star by the Georgia Department of Economic Development (GDEcD).
“Atlanta Movie Tours is a rock star, not only due to revenue surges and job creation year over year, but they make sure their employees are embedded in the industry in the right way,” says Mary Ellen McClanahan, GDEcD director of Entrepreneur and Small Business Development. “Many are either actors or work on set, and they get time off to pursue these dreams.”
According to Burns, one of the biggest lessons she’s learned is not to ignore the neighbors when trying to attract tourists. “We’re looking at making a more concentrated effort to approach the local market to have them see the benefit of being a tourist in their own backyard.”