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Lights! Camera! Action! Los Alamos!

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By Garrison Wells

Coming soon to a theater near you.

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Los Alamos.

Well, a few vampires, too.

The movie “Let Me In,” another tale of Vampire teens (think “Twilight” only darker) filmed in and around Los Alamos, is nearing release.

The star? Well, if you live in this area, it has to be Los Alamos and the local extras likely to pop up on the screen. Much of the movie was filmed at Los Alamos High School.

“It’s getting a lot of buzz on the Internet and online review sites,” said Eric Witt, government film advisor for the State of New Mexico.

“The good thing for you guys is that Los Alamos plays itself. It’s not another town, it’s Los Alamos, New Mexico that they shot.”

Trailers are already playing and the release is set for Oct. 1.

They’re dark, searing flashes of a movie sure to draw fans of the vampire genre — those teens and ’tweens fresh from the allure of “Twilight” and its sequel, “Eclipse.”

In an interview, “Let Me In” director Matt Reeves is unruffled by comparisons to “Twilight.” He told Reelzchannel that his movie “will be a darker, scarier kind of journey.”

Starring Kodi Smit-McPhee, Chloe Moretz and Richard Jenkins, the horror movie is about a “misfit boy who suspects that his only friend, an eerie child who only appears at night, is hiding a terrible secret.”

“Let Me In” is just a single example of one of the state’s biggest economic success stories. Indeed, that success in New Mexico has set a trend nationwide.

New Mexico is No. 3 in the United States for best film location, following only Los Angeles and New York. Albuquerque was ranked by Moviemaker Magazine as the top-ranked city in the U.S. for shoots.

Behind New York and Los Angeles, New Mexico now has the largest crew base in the country with more than 2,000.

“We’re definitely recognized, not just nationally, but in fact internationally, for what we’ve done.” Witt said.

Close to home

Earlier this week, traffic to Española was slowed by distracted drivers. They were trying to see filming at the Santa Clara Pueblo between Los Alamos and Española. The site was marked by a sign that said “XX.”

Mysterious.

It was a matter of discussion at local businesses and homes.

Turns out, the new Harrison Ford movie “Cowboys and Aliens” was being filmed there, according to the film’s publicist. They have since packed up and left the area.

Six films are in the works in New Mexico, Witt said. They are “Let Them Shine,” Disney’s “Lemonade Mouth,” “Fright Night,” Ford’s  “Cowboys,” “This Must Be The Place” and “Broken Horses.”

Between six to eight more are set to be filmed in the state in the fall and winter.

Film, Witt said, supports a lot of other business around the location. Costuming, dry cleaning, hotels, catering services, transportation services, off-duty police, firefighters, everybody can get into the act.

“That gets to the point of why Gov. Richardson targeted this business, because it’s unique in the amount of money that a film injects into the economy. It’s across a broad range of businesses,” Witt said.

Though the local

economic impact hasn’t yet been studied, for one film, “Knockout,” the local take was at a minimum of $129,800 for gasoline, rooms at Los Alamos hotels, catering at Smith’s, coffee at Starbucks and equipment from Metzger’s Do It Yourself, according to a report to the Los Alamos County Council.

Why do film companies like Los Alamos?

The topography is one draw.

So is the mix of modern and older homes and the treatment by local residents.

“Steven Soderbergh (director of “Knockout,” now named “Haywire,”) said the thing about this place is it can be anywhere,” recalled  Kelly Stewart, who heads the Los Alamos Film Office and is the Los Alamos County liaison for the New Mexico Film Office.

And when they get here, they spend, she said.

For instance, the crew and actors found out that it’s a lot colder than they thought in Los Alamos and made a spontaneous trip to Metzger’s “and dropped $3,000,” Stewart said.

“For the community, it’s important to know that we are their first stop when they need something,” she said.

There are other benefits when a movie gets made in your community.

When you are talking about stars of the magnitude that have come to the area, John Travolta, Martin Lawrence, Tim Allen and William H. Macy of “Wild Hogs”; Natalie Portman, Tobey Maguire and Jake Gyllenhaal of “Brothers,” you get all kinds of A-list activity and a chance to mingle, ever so briefly, with the rich and famous.

Nancy Chavez, general manager at the Hampton Inn & Suites in White Rock, knows that firsthand.

Travolta, Allen and Lawrence stayed at the Hampton Inn for three weeks and were pleasant enough guests, she said.

“We didn’t get autographs or anything,” she said. “But they did hang out in the lobby with other guests.”

Travolta, Chavez added, “was a little more demanding.”

“He’s high maintenance,” she said.