04 Oct How the West Was Filmed: Tucson's movie industry, like the Western lifestyle it popularized, seems a little unreal and gone forever.
Bob Shelton is credited today by many in the industry for single-handedly making Tucson, for a time, a major film location. When Tucson's film industry was at its peak, between the 1960s and the early 1990s, the community was doing $20-25 million in film business per year, according to Shelton.
Shelton sold out eventually, and in 1995 the studio that for 60 years had "played a prominent role in shaping the world's perception of the old west" (as Old Tucson's Web site brags) burned down. The fire took with it irreplaceable props and costumes and the last hopes of a local subculture created when the work was plentiful--a group of men and women who relied on Tucson's movie industry for work.
"Up until the fire this community maintained a level of film production higher than most places," Shelton said. "But when they rebuilt (Old Tucson) they didn't rebuild the qualities and the things in the town that the film companies came here to film. They have made it pretty clear that their interest is primarily in tourism."