Huge change coming for Tapanui

Tapanui's Northumberland St will soon be red, white and blue. Photo by Hamish MacLean.
Tapanui's Northumberland St will soon be red, white and blue. Photo by Hamish MacLean.
The Stars and Stripes will be flying in West Otago next month.

But what the transformation of Tapanui into an American mill town for the upcoming filming of the Walt Disney Studios movie Pete's Dragon this autumn means to main-street businesses is ''a complete unknown''.

Businesses have been told to expect to continue trading when the filming of the live-action remake starring Robert Redford starts, but how that would play out was still a mystery, Tapanui Foursquare owner Vicki Adams said.

''We're all just holding our breath really, waiting to see what's going to happen and how it's going to work.''

Last week Northumberland St businesses were shown what their shopfronts would look like for the filming, she said.

Northumberland St would become the main street of a town in Oregon, US, in the 1980s, and businesses would get a makeover to achieve that look.

''I think there are going to be American flags, by the sounds of it, hanging everywhere.''

The location scouts for the feature film she had spoken to told her they would support local businesses and she welcomed it, but how the influx of up to 250 cast and crew set to arrive in the next few weeks might affect the Four Square store had not involved much planning.

She said the store would have some extra stock on the shelves, but stocking for extra visitors was ''very much an unknown''.

She said that in the grocery business retailers could react to situations ''reasonably quickly''.

Idealprint & Design owner Jann Robertson was told that when her print shop is transformed into Joe's Barber there would be an American flag flying at her door and a barber pole twirling outside.

She said it might be confusing if passersby had missed the news the town was to have a Hollywood makeover for a few weeks in April.

Some of those who pass through town might begin to think: ''What has happened to the print shop?'' she said.

Clutha District Council member Michelle Kennedy, of Tapanui, said the quiet town was expecting ''everyday normal life'' to carry on, but she had questions about what that would mean on a practical level.

''I think the town's going to get a surprise,'' she said.

''I don't think the town really knows what's going to happen until it actually hits on their back door and then they'll think 'Oh my god, I didn't think there would be that many people around here.''

Tuck's Pantry owner Gill Tuckey said she was not making any extra beet relish for the cast and crew.

But, like most in the town of 730, she was excited by the filming.

''I think it's going to be short and sweet. They'll come, they'll do what they're going to do, and they'll be gone.''

hamish.maclean@odt.co.nz

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