Community reels in excitement

By Kevin Wilson: Freedom Newspapers

It would have been a great enough experience for Juan Garza just to play a bit role in “Believe in Me.”

However, when the Clovis and Portales restaurant owner sees himself in a bit part in the movie about a 1960s Oklahoma girls basketball team, he’ll think of the time when Hollywood first believed in eastern New Mexico and infused the area with excitement and dollars.

“As far as the gross receipts, that’s an awesome thing to have,” said Garza, who owns Juanito’s Mexican restaurants in Clovis and Portales. “Actors were staying and eating in places here.”

Today’s 5:30 p.m. showing at the North Plains Cinema 7 in Clovis has been sold out for about two weeks, and less than 30 tickets remain for the 9:30 p.m. showing, according to officials at the Clovis/Curry County Chamber of Commerce.

The businesses in Clovis and Portales gained the cast and crew of the movie as customers, from sign-making businesses to hotels to various merchants.

“Believe in Me” representatives have reported a budget of $8 million, and they told Clovis/Curry County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Ernie Kos $3 million of that went into eastern New Mexico.

“I know for a fact every night a different restaurant catered the meal for the staff and crew,” said Kos. “Restaurants did well, antique stores did very well.”

Garza was one of the business owners who did well. Although the sets were catered during filming, Garza said he’d usually get some crew members and extra business from people who came to be crowd members during the basketball scenes.

He was happy those people filled his restaurants, but he’s just as excited about the message local participation sent to Hollywood.

“There were some days where people were happy to be there 12 hours (to be extras),” Garza said. “That was dedication, and it’s probably something (future filmmakers will) consider.”

Garza will be watching for himself behind the media table during one basketball scene. Kos is guessing many will watch the movie for the same reason — as a personal “Where’s Waldo?” game.

“They can’t wait to see themselves on the big screen,” Kos said. “Many of the people coming to the VIP reception (at 7 p.m. today at the Clovis Civic Center) were involved in the movie.

“It sure has given the community something to be excited about.”