This little town is returning to normal after a couple of months as a Warner Bros. movie set, a little brighter but a little wearier.
Old West facades were being removed and downtown buildings were getting a new coat of paint even before Kevin Costner, star and director of “The Postman,” left town last week.
“It’s looking nice, and it’ll be like a new start,” said Mayor Lee McGowan.
She figures it will take several years to know whether the movie has boosted this area as a tourist destination. For McGowan, that will be the real test of whether the inconvenience was worthwhile.
Like many residents, McGowan found the movie-making fascinating but more demanding than expected.
“It’s been interesting, to say the least,” said George Kubota, owner of the Metaline Falls Trading Co. But it’s “a pretty good question” whether he’d willingly suffer the inconvenience again.
“There are a lot of people who would never, ever do it again,” he said. “A lot of people are unhappy about their lawns because they couldn’t cut the grass all year.”
Grass that got up to 1 feet fall became coarse and yellow, and probably will take a year to recover, Kubota said.
The movie called for a run-down look because it is set in a bleak future, when nuclear war has destroyed most technology. Villagers struggle against raids by horse-mounted survivalists, but Costner inspires hope for civilization by assuming the role of a mailman.
Kubota thinks the ongoing post-film cleanup will determine whether most residents are happy with their experience. Regardless, their pockets will have a little extra jingle.
“It was a very economical situation for the town,” said Karl McKenzie, manager of the local Lafarge Corp. cement-shipping terminal, which got “some pretty good money” for leasing out its property.
Noting the area’s heavy industries are shut down and unfavorable exchange rates are keeping Canadian shoppers home, McKenzie said he thinks Metaline Falls “would have been real dead this summer” except for the movie.
One loser, he said, was the North Pend Oreille Lions Club. McKenzie said the club lost revenue from tourist train rides because moviemakers didn’t want the noise that would have been caused by repairing rail-line slide damage. But he is hopeful Warner Bros. will reimburse the club for its estimated $9,000 loss.
Around town, business customers often had to slip in back doors and keep their voices down during filming.
Traffic restrictions during the filming were the biggest frustration, according to real-life Postmaster Carrie Kurlo. People in small towns have little tolerance for traffic jams and detours, Mayor McGowan agreed.
The inconvenience was lucrative, though. A Warner Bros. spokesman said the movie brought more than $7 million into the region, and nearly 200 Washington residents were hired for the 350-member crew.
“It was just nothing but a mad-house,” said Heidi Filler, who didn’t have time to say more than “hi” when Costner visited her restaurant and lounge.
Busy shopkeepers still found time to join other residents and tourists in watching the movie-makers at work.
“It’s kind of amazing the things they were able to do,” Kubota said.
And do and do and do.
“They spend all day filming a scene, and the next day they come back and do it again,” Kurlo said.
Pointing to the spot where Costner had his pretend post office, McGowan said, “They must have burned that thing 20 times.”
Costner is now filming a few scenes in the Portland area and near Anacortes, Wash., before heading to the studio to edit “The Postman” for a Christmas release.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 2 color photos
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