Maine is a tourist economy. Nobody ever had to tell me that fact, since my Massachusetts family spent two weeks every summer driving up to Maine and seeing the proud motto, “Vacationland” on all the local license plates. (Here, I note that while, yes, I am “from away,” I’ve now lived and paid taxes in Maine for some 35 years. Am I a Mainer yet? C’mon …)

Anyway, apart from all the sunshine and beaches, the lighthouses and the lobsters, the forests and the ski slopes, Maine’s from-away lure has always included the movies. Not that many of them are actually shot here (although, wiser governmental heads willing, that may soon change). But the siren song of Maine as the slower-paced, lake-sitting, rough-hewn destination cinematic where city folk choose to have their relaxing (or, let’s face it, Stephen King terrifying) vacations has seen various Maine locales name-checked on the big screen.

But is that always a good thing for the mighty tourism dollar?

Well, proud and loyal Mainer that I am (damn it), I decided to survey just how various Maine chambers of commerce might view their municipalities’ tourist luster in light of how they come off in the movies. Is your town a quaint seaside retreat, filled with folksy locals just itching to offer up some sage romantic advice to that stressed-out, lovelorn executive? Or is it a shadowy haven for all manner of otherworldly monstrosities just waiting to pounce, and scare the summer crowds out of their sunscreen?


Look, sometimes Hollywood just picks a chunk of Maine and calls it good, so we can only narrow this 1999 giant killer crocodile movie down to The County. Still, a 30-foot displaced monster maneater is a tough sell to tourists looking for a cool dip in a Maine lake.
Possible PR campaign: “No killer crocs here! Our bloodthirsty monsters just drain you, slowly, over a million itchy bites.”



OK, so it’s a bit of a cheat, as King’s copiously haunted and blood-drenched town of Derry was only patterned on Bangor. But Maine’s most famous Bangor resident even once copped to the Derry-equals-Bangor situation, so it’s canon. In King-adapted films, from “It” (demonic murder clown) to “Dreamcatcher” (very invasive alien worm-monsters), Derry/Bangor is no picnic. At least not one you’re likely to survive. Toss in Bangor-adjacent fictitious King locales like “Dolores Claiborne’s” Little Tall Island and “The Tommyknockers” UFO-haunted Haven, plus the time “The Langoliers” said the heck with it and set its reality-devouring beasties loose on Bangor International Airport, and even the prospect of spotting the affable real life author shopping for socks isn’t enough to bring in the tourists.
Suggested PR campaign: “Bangor: Home to the 1946 Hedy Lamarr weepie ‘The Strange Woman’ – and nothing else.”


Well, here’s a nice, easy one for the town’s chamber to market. Shirley Jones, singing her heart out to Rodgers & Hammerstein! At a carnival, no less! Oh, wait a minute, it’s about an abusive husband who gets killed in a robbery and has to come back from the dead to make amends to his widow and emotionally scarred daughter? Aw, c’mon!
Possible new town motto: “At least we don’t have a killer clown.”


Steve, again with the monsters? We’re just trying to make a few bucks here. While shopping at the local Hannaford, try not to think about that time when Thomas Jane and Andre Braugher got trapped in a Bridgton supermarket by hordes of slimy, Lovecraftian tentacle monsters. Go ahead. Try.
Suggested PR stint: Just lean into it with town-wide calamari Tuesdays.



Nothing like a little intense family drama (complete with a side salad of murder, judicial injustice and domestic violence) to put your town on the map – of places in Maine forever associated with such things.
Possible marketing strategy: Since this award-winning indie was actually filmed in and around Camden, just put up a big billboard of Sissy Spacek smiling down on everyone. Sissy Spacek could never hurt you.


No, not the steamy Drew Barrymore one. The Michael J. Fox summer camp one, where a pre-“Back to the Future” Fox is the coolest guy at Penobscot County’s Camp Pinewood.
Easy sell (with footnote in barely readable fine print): “Clifton – We loved Michael J. Fox before anybody else! (Disclaimer: The 1986 TV movie ‘Poison Ivy’ was actually shot in Georgia, and, to the best of our knowledge, Mr. Fox has never set foot in Clifton.)”


After all, he is “the friendly ghost,” right? So what better setting for the middling kids film about everyone’s favorite dead child’s unquiet spirit?
Proposed sign at the border: “Our ghosts are nice, unlike some other towns we could mention. Cough – Bangor – cough.”



As with Derry/Bangor, King’s made little effort to hide that his hometown is a stand-in for other fictional Maine monster-haven Castle Rock. Let’s see, Castle Rock/Durham can boast killer dogs/rabid bats (“Cujo”), treacherous roads and subsequent apocalyptic psychic visions (“The Dead Zone”), a woodland teeming with scary, knife-wielding bullies and the occasional dead child (“Stand By Me”), and the straight-up Devil (“Needful Things”).
Proposed bumper sticker: “The inspiration for Maine’s arguably second-most evil fictional city. (Oh, and that dome juuust missed us.)”


The tiny Somerset County village was, in 1990, treated to not only a Hollywood production setting up at the town’s ancient Bartlett textile mill, but the honor of actually being name-checked as the Stephen King adaptation’s locale. No “Castle Rock” nonsense here. So what if the resulting film is about an infestation of increasingly huge and murderous rat-monsters, and the non-Mainer cast sports a bewildering array of the worst Mainer accents ever committed to film?
Suggested local T-shirt: “I survived having to listen to Stephen Macht say ‘ayuh’ and all I got was this lousy T-shirt.”


With its picturesquely clichéd seaside tourist destination and connection to a certain former presidential dynasty, the setting for this disastrously unfunny Ray Romano political comedy couldn’t pretend to be anywhere else – even though the actual Kennbunkport residents likely wish it could. Fun fact: this 2004 movie was so bad, it literally made Gene Hackman decide to call it a career.
Suggested banner: “At least our actual ex-presidents only started two wars.”



OK, this one’s gonna be a tough sell, I grant you. A low-budget horror flick about squirming monster cockroaches with a taste for human flesh on an otherwise picturesque Maine island – that’s not going to do anybody any good. Technically set in the Maine community of “Orr Island,” I’m just going to chalk that up to from-away people not doing their homework.
Proposed travel brochure: “Orr’s Island – an ungodly amount of mosquitos and black flies, not so much with the killer cockroaches!”


From native Portlander Kyle Rankin, this cheeky zombie comedy features the genuinely funny and lovely Maria Thayer as a spunky world-saver, and the great Ray Wise (“Twin Peaks”) as a malevolently cool weirdo.
Suggested ad copy for Bon Appétit: “Whether you’re a traveler craving one of America’s finest food destinations or an undead ghoul with a serious hunger for the pulsing flesh of the living, Portland’s got you covered!”


In the earlier movie, Dana Andrews is a troubled fisherman dealing with melodrama on land and bad weather at sea. In the latter indie, Thomas Hildreth is a troubled fisherman dealing with bad weather at sea and family melodrama on land.
Suggested warning sign on local docks: “Fishing is super hard, you guys.”


A cult summer camp comedy featuring some of the funniest so-and-sos on the planet (Amy Poehler, Michael Showalter, Jon Benjamin, Paul Rudd, Molly Shannon, Ken Marino, Janeane Garofalo, Michael Ian Black, Joe Lo Truglio, Bradley Cooper, Chris Meloni, Elizabeth Banks, David Hyde Pierce), all set at the fictitious but undeniably Waterville-adjacent Camp Firewood? Sign us up, even with the film (and equally hilarious subsequent TV sequels’) insistence that the greater Waterville area is occasionally pelted by space debris, dripping with toxic waste, and teeming with shady government operatives and talking canned goods.
PR recommendations: No notes!

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