When asked if a movie such as “Hillbilly Elegy” would help or hurt the city after being declared a dying city by Forbes magazine more than a decade ago, Mulligan said, “can we drop the dying city reference? The reports of our death were grossly exaggerated. Earlier this year the city received one of Ohio’s Success Awards.”
Mary Huttlinger, Middletown Visitors Bureau executive director, agreed with Mulligan that the movie is about one man’s experience and journey.
“It may not depict Middletown in a positive way, but it is a good story,” she said. “People liked the book because people like underdogs.”
Huttlinger said there are a lot of parallels can be drawn to Middletown and Vance’s journeys. She said Vance pulled himself up from his bootstraps by joining the Marines and eventually graduating The Ohio State University and Yale Law School; Middletown is doing the same through its revitalization efforts downtown and elsewhere in the city
Academy Award-winning director Ron Howard has been spotted several times in the Middletown area scouting locations. During his visits to Middletown, he has become a regular of sorts at the Triple Moon Coffee Company, where he grabs a “Bad Hunter” sandwich and latte.
Ron Howard during his late March visit to the Triple Moon Coffee Company. CONTRIBUTED
Howard’s visits have generated local enthusiasm to have as much of the movie filmed in the Middletown area as possible. The Middletown Visitors Bureau has been creating short videos of downtown businesses and local residents encouraging Howard to “Make It In Middletown Ron” or #makeitinmiddletownron.
Over the past few weeks, Howard and Netflix have announced the signing of major stars to appear in the $45 million production, including Amy Adams, Glenn Close and Gabriel Basso.
In March, Netflix applied for more than $12.5 million in Ohio Motion Picture Tax Credits for use in the Middletown and Cincinnati areas. It was one of 13 film projects that have applied for the film tax credits. The program provides a refundable and transferable tax credit of 30 percent on in-state spending and crew wages for eligible productions.
While there is an application pending, Huttlinger said she was not sure if any film tax credits would be available until after July 1, when the new state biennium budget goes into effect. She also pointed out there have been tax credits granted for uncompleted or cancelled projects but there is no administrative process to follow up and reallocate those unused film tax credits for new projects.
A message for comment was left with the Ohio Development Services Agency, which oversees the Ohio Film Office.