Last summer, Port Hope, Ont., was transformed into the sleepy town of Derry, Maine, where the evil clown Pennywise returned to torment the now-grown-up members of the Losers’ Club.
“The storyline was brought to life along our riverbed and in our buildings and in our parks. It really is exciting and can only do good things for the community,” explains Brenda Whitehead, the CEO of the Port Hope and District Chamber of Commerce.
“When we think of Stephen King’s It, it’s alive and well right here in Port Hope.”
Warner Brothers’ It: Chapter Two was filmed in Port Hope, about 150 kilometres east of Toronto. A huge production, it took over much of the downtown core last summer and spilled into local parks and side streets.
It was a spectacle and hundreds flocked to the historic town for a glimpse of the Hollywood gore.
“People had jobs; the residences, the motels and hotels were full and we had a lot of visitors. And of course, they were purchasing from all the businesses on the main street,” says Bob Sanderson, the mayor of Port Hope.
“We are a small community, so that impact was a very positive impact for us.”
In all, nearly $1.6 million was funnelled into the town during the filming — big bucks for a town of less than 17,000.
But not everyone was sucked in by the allure of bright lights, cameras and all of the action. One downtown merchant rented out her space for a month and alleges there were several damages and overrun timelines.
“Horrific — I would have never done it had I had a crystal ball,” explains Diane Docherty-Roy, owner of Joie de Vivre.
“This has been a year of my life that I’ve been stressed by this, so I think I’m owed more than just my damages and the comps for the days they ruined my business,” adding that she’s not against filming in the town and is a huge Stephen King fan.
A spokesperson for New Line Cinema says the allegations are being looked into.
Nonetheless, it was a busy spot as the town was transformed into the fictional town of Derry.
It, the second adaptation of Stephen King’s 1986 novel, was released in 2017, and many of its scenes were shot in Port Hope. The movie garnered more than $700 million globally, becoming the highest-grossing horror movie of all time.
“It was chaotic in town, I will say that. Some people will discuss sleepless nights, busy days, traffic disruptions. On the other side of that, there were a lot of tourists in town,” says George Mangos, the co-owner of Sugar Dust Bakery on Walton Street.
The town is holding a premiere viewing event on Friday at the historic Capitol Theatre, a spot featured in the movie, with tickets available to win in a contest. The event is held in partnership with the Port Hope Heritage Business Improvement Area.
WATCH: (July 31, 2018) Filming for sequel to blockbuster hit ‘It’ wraps for now in Port Hope — Is there more to come?
On Thursday, Rainbow Cinemas in Cobourg is holding a screening of the movie, and local business owner Adam Pearson has developed an It viewing party with a special surprise.
“As a business owner, any time you can get something that will attract that many people to your town, it’s wonderful, and then you just have to find a way to get them into your door. I have found it to be incredible for business,” says Pearson.
Many are on the edge of their seats waiting to see not just the movie, but the potential spin-offs it could have in the small community nestled along the banks of the Ganaraska River.