Thursday, 7 September 2006

Penguins back after 'Atonement'

Redcar's seafront penguins have been safely returned to their Esplanade patch as the town returns to normal life after the summer excitement of becoming 'Hollywood by the Sea.'

The penguins had been carefully lifted from their habitat and kept in protective storage while the area was totally transformed into 1940s Dunkirk for filming scenes for the eagerly-awaited adaptation of Ian McEwan's novel, Atonement.

Redcar and Cleveland Council's Cabinet Member for Culture, Leisure and Tourism Councillor Dave Fitzpatrick reflected on an amazing few months for the town and said: "The penguins must be the only members of our community who haven't been enthralled by what's gone on!

"Of course, it's difficult to work out just how much interest and income the filming has generated for the Borough, but the publicity and marketing value must run into hundreds of thousands of pounds. Now we've got to see if we can repeat it."

Redcar's Town Centre Manager John Partridge said: "The effect of the filming on the town centre was incredible - visitors came to see the set being built, to watch the filming itself and then to look at the set before it was dismantled."

The town's Tourist Information Centre on the Esplanade enjoyed probably its busiest-ever week, coping with 350 visitors in the week before filming, then an incredible 750 during the filming. Callers included people from all over the United Kingdom, many to watch family members among the 1,000 extras.

Mr Partridge explained: "The town certainly enjoyed one of its busiest Augusts for many years as people wanted to see the transformation of the seafront into 1940s Dunkirk and then came into town for food and drink and other shopping.

"All kinds of businesses benefited from the film as they provided the film makers with everything from car valeting and hairdressing to food and vehicle fuel.

"Town centre shops reported higher than average sales, car parks were full and Redcar became the place to visit for a glimpse of 'Hollywood by the sea'."

The Regent Cinema, used for a fight scene and adapted as a French bar, has two souvenirs - the mirrored bar itself and two illuminated art deco fan-shaped facades.

And manager Neil Bates is looking forward to next year, too, with the prospect of a regional premiere. "I'm sure there'll be a Leicester Square premiere, but I'm also pretty certain we'll get one of the regional premieres. I'm confident enough to be ordering the red carpet."

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