Just when things were starting to look up for Tijuana—exciting new interest in the food and wine culture, a thriving and emerging art, architecture, and fashion scene, a recent visit by Anthony Bourdain and Chef Rick Bayless, and, most recently, the exciting prospect of one of the hottest films to hit box offices, the third in the "Hangover" trilogy, was to begin shooting in Tijuana—it looks like TJ got dissed again.
For residents of Tijuana, all the movie magic in the world can not re-create their city. But it seems as if Warner Bros. is going to try.
Shooting in Nogales, Sonora Arizona next week, "Hangover III," is dressing up Nogales to look like downtown Tijuana.
A photo was recently released of the iconic TJ sign, which normally hangs over Avenida Revolucion (“Tijuana—The Most Visited City In The World”), now hanging in Nogales.
Like the film "Traffic," which was also supposed to be set in TJ but was filmed in Nogales, it seemed like a bad dream happening all over again, said Secretary of Baja Tourism Juan Tintos Funcke.
“When the idea of filming "Hangover III" came to us a few months ago, we were nervous the film wouldn’t exactly highlight our cuisine, sporting venues, or the wine country, but we thought this would be an opportunity to show the actors and the production company the best of our region," said Tintos.
"We could tour them around," he added. "James Cameron told me years ago that the film industry isn’t that big, if we could show a few of them our best, they’d all know.”
Not much has happened since the "Titanic" sank in the Baja studios of Rosarito Beach. After "Pearl Harbor" and "Master And Commander" was shot a few years back, the 35-acre studio has remained fairly quiet.
But a year ago, Mexican film director Alejandro Monteverde completed filming his movie “Little Boy”, and Tintos says he was hoping this was going to be the new wave of TJ film projects—and revenue.
Shooting mostly in Baja for the WW II feature, scenes for “Little Boy” were also shot in and around Tijuana, the Valle de Guadelupe, and the beach towns.
It starred actors like Ben Chaplin, Kevin James, Tom Wilkinson, Emily Watson, and Eduardo Verastegui, who also worked as the film's producer.
“They lived there for a while and were having a great time, and loving the people,” Verastegui told the LA Times of the cast’s experience shooting in Baja.
Although the assumption that safety was the main concern and reason for switching the "Hangover III’s" filming from TJ to Nogales, Secretary Tintos says he doesn’t believe it.
“I believe Arizona is less expensive," he said. "It’s the bottom dollar. Everyone thinks Hollywood is made of money, but everyone has a budget. Money becomes the bottom line.”
The film is currently filming in California and will be released in 2013, starring actors Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, and Zach Galifianakis.
Warner Bros. says they’re not ruling out any city yet. But at this point, they’re only committed to filming in “several Western states.”
Rebekah Sager is a nationally published lifestyle and culture writer. She's a regular contributor to Fox News Latino. Follow Rebekah on Twitter @Rebekah_Sager.