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17 May, 2024

“Mother of the Bride” joins list of hit films made in Thailand

Bangkok – Thailand’s status as a film-making hub has taken a major leap forward with the release of “Mother of the Bride”, a mushy 90-minute Netflix production that was panned by critics but hit 27 million views in the first four days. Mr Bill Heinecke, Chairman of Minor Hotels group, operator of the Anantara Layan Phuket Resort and the Anantara Mai Khao Phuket Villas, where the film was shot in its entirety, knows exactly why. “When you are watching two wars around the world, (this film) certainly has a good feeling.”

Featuring for the first time Mr Heinecke himself in a five-second scene with the lead actress Brooke Shields, the film saw both hotels being half taken over by the stars and the top crew during the filming in April 2023. Mr Heinecke said it didn’t cost him a cent. In fact, the film-makers paid for their board and lodge. The film was eligible for subsidy from the Ministry of Tourism and Sport’s film unit which reimburses 20% of the costs of movies made in Thailand upon presentation of supporting VATable receipts and payments.

Bill and Kathy Heinecke at the launch screening of the movie at Anantara Layan.

“When you see how this benefits Thailand, it’s well worth it,” Mr Heinecke says. In addition to the jobs created for hundreds of Thai supporting staff, and the experience they gained, the film has attracted a viewership that could cross 100 million. “This is a 90-minute commercial for Thailand. You don’t get many other opportunities like this. It shows the benefit of the “Soft Power” strategy. It is a double-win for Thailand and Phuket.”

That publicity mileage does not include the word-of-mouth and social media buzz by the stars.

During the filming, the hotels remained opened for guests, except for some days when the beaches or the pool areas were closed for the shoots. “The guests didn’t mind. It is not always they get to meet with Hollywood stars and see movies being shot. And they are all very nice people.”

Attracting film-makers is one of the 5 F’s strategy designed by Tourism Authority of Thailand Governor Mrs Thapanee Kiatphaibool to highlight the Kingdom’s unique selling propositions as part of the post-Covid recovery. Visitor arrivals to Thailand crossed 13 million in May and are projected to hit the 40 million mark of pre-Covid 2019 by the end of 2024.

Mr Heinecke says forging stronger links with the movie industry is a major part of Minor’s PR and Communications strategy. “We spend virtually nothing on advertising. But we spend all our resources on PR, getting coverage, winning awards… Even a beauty pageant does not deliver as much.”

He says Thailand is a great location for film-making. It has the perfect countryside and professional supporting crew. The government’s moves to reduce the paperwork – the foreign crew no longer need to have work permits, for example – and the subsidy programme has helped. He says if the subsidy could be raised to 30%, that would be even better. “It spreads the money around very well, that I can tell you, probably far more than conferences.”

He says Minor Group hotels are regularly hosting movie stars and film crews, but this was the first time that an entire film had been made just within the hotels. And yes, he was happy to featured in it, with Brooke Shields, no less. “I had not seen her since ‘The Blue Lagoon’.”

The producers were so happy with the project, they are planning two more movies in Thailand.