Tourism Tuesdays January 8, 2019

‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ becomes highest-grossing American play in broadway history

You can now visit the six locations where Shah Rukh Khan’s ‘Zero’ was shot in Alabama

Rough Guides names Alabama one of the top 19 places to explore for 2019

Attendance Figures needed from state attractions and events

Alabama works with Travel South USA to market state in Sweden

Jason Isbell to headline free Tuscaloosa 200 birthday bash

The Cook Museum of Natural Science makes USA Today’s list of museums to open this year

Cook Museum to hire 50 people next month as opening approaches

Alabama Bicentennial stamp unveiled by U.S. Postal Service

Burroughs ready for next chapter at Alabama Music Hall of Fame

“Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website


‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ becomes highest-grossing American play in broadway history
From the article by Brent Lang on

“To Kill a Mockingbird” is a certifiable smash and has become one of the greatest stage successes of this or any Broadway season. Aaron Sorkin’s adaption of Harper Lee’s classic novel just shattered records in its second full week of performances, grossing a massive $1.702 million.

That makes it the highest single-week grossing American play in Broadway history, supplanting “All the Way,” the Bryan Cranston drama about Lyndon Johnson that took in $1.623 million during the week of June 22, 2014. The new high-water mark set by “To Kill a Mockingbird” is for the week of Dec. 30, 2018, a particularly busy time for Broadway, coming as it does in the midst of the holiday season when Times Square is flooded with tourists.

“I’ve never had, or seen, a new play perform like this one is,” said Scott Rudin, the Tony-winning producer behind “To Kill a Mockingbird.” “We’ve had plenty of shows break plenty of records, but nothing we’ve ever had has been like this. The company of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ has been together for quite a long time already, through numerous labs, readings, and a very healthy preview period. The success of this play — and the huge affection shown for it thus far — belongs entirely to them. It’s their hit.”

Musicals such as “Frozen” and “Hamilton” may gross higher numbers, but they also perform in larger venues. Even with that caveat, “To Kill a Mockingbird’s” seven-figure weekly grosses are the kind usually reserved for musicals. They don’t equal the numbers of “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” but that U.K. production boasts elaborate special effects, a sprawling theater, and a tie-in with a film and literary franchise. “Harry Potter” topped itself over the weekend putting up best-ever numbers for any play in Broadway history with $2,525,850.

Since performances began on Nov. 1, ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ has not played to an empty seat, with capacity being at 100% or greater for every performance. The advance currently stands at more than $22 million. Earlier in December, the Shubert Organization announced the show had set a box office record for the highest weekly gross of any play on Broadway in the organization’s history. As a sign of “To Kill a Mockingbird’s” popularity, the play has an open-ended run. Most non-musicals have a set end date. Moreover, Jeff Daniels, who stars as small-town lawyer Atticus Finch, has agreed to appear in the show for a full year, a very long commitment for a film and television star.

Set in Alabama in 1934, “To Kill a Mockingbird” is a coming-of-age story that also gives a penetrating look at racial injustice in the segregated South. The play, like the novel, follows Atticus’s daughter Scout (Celia Keenan-Bolger), her brother Jem (Will Pullen), their housekeeper and caretaker, Calpurnia (LaTanya Richardson Jackson), their visiting friend Dill (Gideon Glick), and a mysterious neighbor, the reclusive Arthur “Boo” Radley (Danny Wolohan). Bartlett Sher (“South Pacific”) directs the show.

“To Kill a Mockingbird” headed towards the Great White Way facing some headwinds. Lee’s estate sued the producers for taking liberties with the novel (an earlier draft depicted Finch drinking whiskey, for instance, and cursing). The two sides settled the suit last spring in advance of the December opening, removing certain curse words, but sticking to their guns on some changes, such as Sorkin’s decision to enlarge the role of the Finch’s maid Calpurnia. Sorkin is best known for his screenplay for “The Social Network,” a look at the founding of Facebook that Rudin produced, and for creating the NBC smash “The West Wing.”

The task was a mighty one for Sorkin, who didn’t just have to deal with the author’s estate, but also had to grapple with the legacy of the beloved 1962 film adaptation with Gregory Peck as a stentorian Atticus. He appears to have pulled it off, not just commercially, but critically. Reviews have been kind. Variety‘s Marilyn Stasio called it an “effective adaptation” and praised Daniels’ “strong and searching performance” and The New York Times labeled the work “beautiful” and “elegiac.”

For the complete article please see

You can now visit the six locations where Shah Rukh Khan’s ‘Zero’ was shot in Alabama
Editor’s note: The Alabama Tourism Department, North Alabama Tourism, Huntsville CVB and the U.S. Space & Rocket Center teamed up with Brand USA to invite media and tour operators in two cities in India to the opening night showing of “Zero,” a hit Bollywood movie. The movie was released the last week of December and as of last week was in theaters worldwide, including Alabama. In the USA, the movie is subtitled in English. The following is one of several media stories following the release of the movie.

Shah Rukh Khan’s “Zero” was one of the most anticipated films of the year. From the songs to the plot, the Anushka Sharma and Katrina Kaif starrer has been receiving mixed reviews by the fans. Apart from all the buzz around the box-office collection, it’s the shooting locations of the film that have caught our attention. Six of the movie’s film locations were in Alabama, and they are now open to fans.

Grey Brennan, deputy director of the Alabama Tourism Department revealed that the state is preparing for a “Zero” rush. He said, “Viewers of hit Bollywood movies are passionate and want to experience as much of their favourite movie as possible. By visiting actual locations where scenes from the movie were filmed, these fans get a ‘Zero’ movie experience they will always remember.” If you are planning to visit Alabama, then here are six places you definitely need to visit.

Your trip to Alabama will only be complete when you visit the U.S Space and Rocket Center. The largest space flight museum in the world with 1,500 artifacts including the real Saturn V rocket, this is one place you definitely need to visit. Speaking about it, Brennan adds, “The family and adult space camps would be a must for the most animated “Zero” movie fans. You get to launch on simulated missions and train like an astronaut on the Multi-Axis Trainer and 1/6th Gravity Chair.”

You can then head to the Huntsville Botanical Garden where you can enjoy the colourful gardens, trails and beautiful water features. With the children’s garden featuring an open air butterfly house and whimsical statues, it makes for the perfect holiday.

With a part of the movie being filmed in a temple 21 kilometers from the garden, you need to visit the Hindu Cultural Centre of North Alabama.

The other bits of the film were shot at the Huntsville City Center, Grill 29, Von Braun Center and General Huntsville Downtown.

Loved “Zero?” Then it’s time to add Alabama to your 2019 travel bucket list to visit in 2019.

To see more, click on any of the links below:

Huntsville Alabama: A Key Character In Bollywood’s Biggest Movie ‘Zero’ (Bold online, Pop, Travel, Leisure Indian online)

‘Zero’ Movie Locations in Alabama Open to Public (Destination Reporter, India Travel Magazine)

Bollywood flavour to boost tourism in Huntsville (India’s first global business networking platform)

You can now visit the six locations where Shah Rukh Khan’s ‘Zero’ was shot in Alabama (Times now; India website)

For your next trip, here are some exotic locations where Shah Rukh’s ‘Zero’ was shot (Tourism News live .com)

Huntsville makes its Bollywood debut Friday (on, from WHNT-TV)

Bollywood flavour to boost tourism in Huntsville (DAILYHUNT INDIA)

Rough Guides names Alabama one of the top 19 places to explore for 2019
Editor’s note: Rough Guides publishes books covering more than 120 destinations around the globe, produces an ever-growing series of ebooks and a range of reference titles and has an award-winning website. The Alabama Tourism Department and our industry partners hosted a research trip for Rough Guides to several areas of Alabama in 2018. The trip was initiated by the Alabama Tourism Department’s UK PR Director, Surrinder Manku and organized by Brian Jones.

Each year Rough Guides publishes their worldwide top places they are excited to recommend exploring for 2019. The list is broken up into subgroups of five countries, six regions and eight towns and cities. Of the complete list, only two USA destinations made the list, New York City as one of the eight towns and cities and Alabama as one of the regions on their radar.

Alabama, USA
July 2019 marks the 50th Anniversary of the Moon Landing, and one place that will be going all-out for the celebrations is Huntsville, Alabama. The town is known as “Rocket City” thanks to its close links with the NASA space program, and many satellites and rockets were built here, including the the Saturn V rocket that powered the Apollo lunar landings.

The city’s U.S. Space and Rocket Center is only one of the surprising attractions in this state ready to blast-off its sleepy reputation. With perfect timing, 2019 is also the Southern state’s bicentennial year.

On the Gulf Coast, a fabulous music scene might qualify Mobile as the “new New Orleans” if it wasn’t for the fact that the city held its first Mardi Gras in 1703, long before the more famous one in its sister city. Music lovers will also want to make the pilgrimage to the legendary Muscle Shoals Sound Studio, following in the footsteps of artists from the Staple Singers and Bob Dylan to Roy Orbison and the Rolling Stones.

Nearby is the town of Florence, often called “the birthplace of the Blues,” where pioneering musician W.C. Handy was born. The struggles of the African-American experience are marked with the Civil Rights Trail that goes through Birmingham, Montgomery and Selma.

The drive northwards from the south coast will take you from the Gulf of Mexico to the Appalachian mountains, just a glimpse of the variety of landscapes on offer. Outdoor lovers can enjoy hiking, fishing, whitewater rafting on the Chattahoochee River, or play an incredible 468 holes on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail.

For the complete listing, go to

Attendance Figures needed from state attractions and events
The Alabama Tourism Department is asking representatives of state attractions and events to turn in their attendance figures for the year 2018. These attendance figures are the basis for the annual “Top 10” listings. The figures serve as a vital guide for the media, state government and local organizations.

*In order for you to be counted we must have your data by Friday, Jan. 11. The online reporting process should take less than five minutes to complete.

Please follow this link to enter your attendance figures:

Note: There is only one event or attraction per online form and only one classification can be chosen. The Alabama Tourism Department reserves the right for final determination of classifications.

If you have any questions please contact: Brian Jones at or
(334) 242-4665.

Alabama works with Travel South USA to market state in Sweden
The Alabama Tourism Department has joined with Travel South USA in promoting our tourism destinations in Sweden. Swanson Travel, one of the leading travel companies in Sweden, produces a catalog of travel yearly and holds a yearly travel show at their headquarters in Osby.

Alabama Tourism will attend the Swanson Travel Show in March along with several other Travel South member states.  In addition, Travel South USA has purchased a two-page spread in the Swanson Travel catalog to promote the South as a region. Alabama Tourism is adding extra strength by having a separate one-page feature on Alabama.

Swanson Travel includes Birmingham, Montgomery, and Muscle Shoals in their suggested tours of the south. The Alabama page will suggest visitors purchase one of those tours or ask Swanson Travel to create their own Alabama trip that could include additional Alabama cities.

Sweden is part of the Nordic region that as a group represents the sixth ranked inbound market to the Travel South member states.

For more information about Alabama Tourism’s marketing to international markets, contact

Jason Isbell to headline free Tuscaloosa 200 birthday bash
From the article by Jason Morton on

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, St. Paul & the Broken Bones, and the Commodores will come to Tuscaloosa next year to celebrate the city’s 200th birthday.

Hosted by the Tuscaloosa 200 Bicentennial Commission, the “Bicentennial Bash,” is set for March 30 at the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater.

Additional performers slated for the family friendly event Bicentennial Bash performers include the Blind Boys of Alabama and Moon Taxi.

Doors open at 1 p.m., and the festivities will conclude with a fireworks show starting at 9:15 p.m.

Admission is free.

For the complete article please see

The Cook Museum of Natural Science makes USA Today’s list of museums to open this year
Editor’s note: USA Today created a list of 10 museums opening in 2019. This is from that list.

The Cook Museum of Natural Science, Decatur, Alabama
A half-century ago, an Alabama pest-control firm welcomed the public to see the bug collection it used to train employees. Over the decades, it has evolved to become a top attraction in this small town near Huntsville and is about to move into a new $17 million home. “It’s a cool origin story,” LaBriola says. The four-level museum will include aquariums and terrariums, mounted wildlife and live insects.

For the complete list please see

Cook Museum to hire 50 people next month as opening approaches
From the article by Eric Fleischauer on

The Cook Museum of Natural Science plans to hire 50 people next month before an opening date as early as the first half of this year, officials said.

Most of the jobs will be part time, and they will bring the full staff to 80 employees, said Cook Museum President Brian Cook.

“It’s been more complicated and taken more time, effort, fundraising and investment than we initially thought,” Cook said of the downtown Decatur museum he first announced in January 2014. “But it’s been an effort to really hit the mark, to not just do what we said we were going to do but to do a little more and exceed those expectations.

“It’s surreal to be at this point where you start seeing ideas not just on paper but three-dimensional, created in front of you. I cannot wait to open these doors and see kids and families having fun, learning a lot and enjoying each other. It’s going to be special.”

Located at Fourth Avenue Northeast and Lee Street, the 62,000-square-foot museum has a price tag of $32 million. The Cook family began the project with a $7 million contribution. Cook said fundraising for the museum is approaching $20 million.

The opening date remains unspecified, but it’s near enough that city officials are scurrying to ensure that numerous details — especially parking and pedestrian safety — are in place on opening day. City and museum officials met Wednesday at the museum. Wally Terry, director of development for Decatur and a member of the museum’s advisory board, said he’s figuring the city has about 120 days left before the doors open.

The nonprofit museum will feature a 15,000-gallon saltwater tank and exhibit spaces for the rivers and streams of the Tennessee River Valley, caves, mountains, the arctic tundra, deserts, oceans, bayous, hardwood forests, insects, the human body and the solar system.

The completed exterior is deceptive, Cook said, and has resulted in numerous calls asking whether the museum is already open and for details that have not yet been determined, such as the admission price. Inside, fabricators are busy completing exhibits.

Most of the recent work has been on the forest exhibit, Cook said, and it has him excited.

“It’s going to be incredible. They’re creating these trees by welding the metal together, then putting foam on that and epoxy on that, and using molds of tree bark and putting leaves on,” Cook said.

In the forest will be numerous taxidermy animals, nature specimens and even a tree with an interior staircase built to replicate a famous tulip poplar at Sipsey Wilderness in Bankhead National Forest.

The forest exhibit will also include a weathered cabin replica that includes items from the original Cook’s Museum that began in 1968 and has been a public destination in its 5,000-square-foot home at Cook’s Pest Control since 1980.

In the cabin will be numerous natural items, such as a beaver’s tooth and geodes and coral, each with computer chips affixed.

When kids place the items on a table, information — including field identification, fun facts and other educational material — will be displayed on a TV monitor.

Is the exhibit limited to kids?

“No, no,” Cook said. Then, with a laugh: “Everybody’s a kid.”

If estimates hold true, the city has to prepare for downtown congestion. A consultant for the nonprofit museum estimated it would draw 214,000 visitors in its first year, not including children on school trips. Sixty percent of those visitors are expected to show up on Saturdays.

That estimate was made more than five years ago and has not been updated even as the size and scope of the museum has expanded, but marketing and public relations director Mike Taylor said the estimate remains solid.

“Those were pretty sturdy numbers,” Taylor said. “We’re still leaning pretty heavily on those numbers. We trust them.”

Those visitors will begin descending on the city soon.

“The first half of the year is an internal goal,” Taylor said of the opening date, but museum officials are committing only to sometime this year. Cook said he expects to announce the opening date — along with details like admission price — “really soon.”

Mayor Tab Bowling said there are numerous things he would like to see before the museum opens — from a downtown hotel to buried power lines — but finances and time demand a slimmed-down list.

“We have to establish priorities based on available funds,” he said.

Included on the city’s list are pedestrian-controlled traffic signals at Lee Street and Fourth Avenue, more curb cuts for handicapped accessibility, possibly painted sidewalk icons leading from overflow parking areas to the museum, and designated bus parking spots and routes for groups being dropped off at the museum, Terry said.

A focus of the city’s efforts in the remaining months will be safety for visitors walking from parking areas to the museum, Terry said.

“We really want to find ways to slow traffic down in that area. We’ll probably put a speed bump on Holly Street (adjacent to the museum), because there seem to be people cutting through there,” Terry said. “We may need to find a way to stop people from cutting through the parking lot. …We’re keeping our eye on safety, and making sure visitors have a good experience coming into town.”

Something Cook is pushing for in the longer term is a parking deck. He said he recently met with Morgan County Commission Chairman Ray Long after reading that Long supports a parking deck on a county parking lot along the south side of Lee Street, next to the Alabama Center for the Arts and convenient to the museum.

“That would be absolutely tremendous,” Cook said. “It’s a great location that would serve a lot of people and provide the infrastructure for downtown to continue to grow. I’d love to see it as a mixed-use structure, with additional development fronting Second Avenue.”

Cook envisions the success of the museum and of downtown Decatur being intertwined, which he emphasizes to governmental officials when suggesting projects like the parking deck.

“The museum will be a year-round driver for introducing and bringing people into the community,” he said. “It’s not just about them coming to the museum, but them coming to Decatur.”

While the museum may be the focal point for out-of-town visitors, he said, it should not be their sole destination.

“Hopefully they’ll eat and shop and explore,” Cook said. “They’ll learn about the Princess Theatre and the arts college. They’ll go to Bank Street and the depot. They may hear about 3rd Friday or Point Mallard and want to come back for that.

“It’s an opportunity for us to have a new front porch for the community in welcoming visitors and introducing them to the people, the quality of life and the activities in the area. The museum is an enhancement of the city’s brand as the River City, the wildlife refuge, outdoor activities and the arts. It’s a great place for people to launch off and discover Decatur.”

Taylor analogized to Chattanooga’s tourist experience.

“We don’t go to Chattanooga just for the aquarium. We think about all the different things we can do there: shopping, restaurants and things like that,” he said.

Many of the visitors are likely to enter Decatur over the causeway, and one of their first images of the city will be a Sixth Avenue populated by a boarded-up bait store, a used car lot and a liquor store.

“I don’t know that I’m really worried about that,” Cook said. “But the visitor experience begins long before they come to the museum. … Their drive in across the bridge is part of that. It all matters.”

Taylor — who grew up in Decatur and returned in late April to take a job with Cook Museum — said the city’s focus on its weaknesses is a healthy route to improvement, but his time in other cities reminded him Decatur has a lot to offer.

“Decatur’s a pretty beautiful place compared to other places,” he said. “I think people who visit will be impressed.”

Cook said capital fundraising, marketing, hiring and exhibit completion are central to preparations before the museum’s doors open. Also in the works is a fundraising drive focused on free or discounted admission for students from Title 1 schools.

“That’s a big reason why we’re doing what we’re doing, to inspire those kids,” Cook said. “That’s a top priority for us as we start the new year.”

For the complete article please see

Alabama Bicentennial stamp unveiled by U.S. Postal Service
From the article by Leada Gore on

Alabama’s 200th birthday is being celebrated with a new postage stamp.

The U.S. Postal Service Forever stamp features art taken at sunset at Cheaha State Park by Alabamian Joe Miller, who took the photo from the park’s Pulpit Rock Trail. The image has Pulpit Rock in the foreground overlooking the Talladega National Forest, which surrounds the state park. The stamp also includes the name of the state and the year of statehood.

The stamp will be issued in Huntsville — site of Alabama’s First Constitutional Convention — on Feb. 23 at Constitution Hall Park.

The Alabama stamp is one of several new releases from USPS in 2019. This year’s features include stamps honoring the Year of the Boar from the Celebrating Lunar New Year series; entertainers Gregory Hines and Marvin Gaye; the USS Missouri; poet Walt Whitman; the 50th anniversary of Woodstock; and the California Dogface butterfly.

USPS Stamp Services Executive Director Mary-Anne Penner said this year’s releases continue the tradition first started in 1847.

“The miniature works of art illustrated in the 2019 stamp program offer something for everyone’s interest about American history and culture,” Penner said. “From legendary poet Walt Whitman to the entertainment genius of Gregory Hines to the majestic beauty of our Wild and Scenic Rivers, this program is diverse and wide ranging and tells America’s story on stamps.”

For the complete article please see

Burroughs ready for next chapter at Alabama Music Hall of Fame
From the article by Russ Corey on

Sandra Killen Burroughs and Dixie Griffin have spent a lot of time together in the past weeks at the Alabama Music Hall of Fame.

As of today, Burroughs will become the new director of the attraction that pays tribute to the state’s numerous music achievers. Griffin announced her retirement in October. She became the director after the facility reopened to much fanfare just over five years ago.

While she grew up in the Lexington area, Burroughs said she’s “coming home” to the Shoals.

Burroughs has spent the last 12 years as director of membership recruitment and legislative liaison for the Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourism Association. She also is the mayor of Lexington.

“The background in tourism was a big plus in deciding to apply,” Burroughs said. “Then, when I looked at every aspect of my career, it just seemed to me like everything that I had done in the past had led me this way.”

She’s been driving from Lexington to the Alabama Mountain Lakes offices in Decatur for the past 12 years.

“I’m coming home, basically,” she said. “Every job I had growing up was in the Shoals area.”

For the past few weeks, Griffin has been showing Burroughs the ins and outs of running the hall of fame, including such tasks as bookkeeping the state of Alabama way.

Burroughs is familiar with the hall of fame through her work at Alabama Mountain Lakes, so she is aware of what Griffin has done and plans to keep following her successful game plan.

“I’m still kind of numb and in disbelief that I was chosen to take over the Alabama Music Hall of Fame,” Burroughs said. “To follow in Dixie’s footsteps is just phenomenal.”

She wants to continue the concerts the hall of fame hosts in the newly expanded lobby and the school tours that have brought hundreds of students to the attraction for music education field trips.

One change Burroughs said could be to expand the gift shop to make it a destination for those looking for unique gifts. She’d like the public to know they can come to the gift shop without touring the museum.

She also wants to increase the hall of fame’s presence on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

“You need content to keep people interested,” Burroughs said.

One idea is to focus on a hall of fame inductee or achiever and share facts and photos with the fans. She also wants to get more involved with the hall of fame’s recently redesigned website.

Burroughs said she wants to continue working with the State Tourism Office and Alabama Mountain Lakes and take advantage of the opportunities for cross promotion of the hall of fame. She wants to make sure every hotel in the surrounding area knows the hall of fame is here and conveys that information to their visitors.

She also wants to send an invitation to schools within a three-hour radius touting the hall of fame for lessons on music history or black history.

Burroughs wants to promote the recording studio inside the hall of fame where aspiring singers can cut a popular song with karaoke style background music or their own music. For $10, they get a disc with their song.

While attendance is good, Burroughs said she not only wants to maintain attendance, but increase it. Griffin said the hall of fame is the Number One music attraction in the state.

“We’re trying to get folks to come into town, spend their money, spend the night, eat here, shop here, stay here, and then go home and tell everyone else about it,” Burroughs said.

For the most part, Burroughs is taking over a facility that is in good shape considering it’s nearing 30 years old. One project that remains is the renovation of the detached banquet room behind the main building. And Burroughs said at some point they will have to replace the hall of fame sign outside the building along U.S. 72.

She said her position as mayor of Lexington shouldn’t interfere with her position at the hall of fame. She plans to use her position as mayor to sing the praises of the hall of fame at events such as Alabama League of Municipalities meetings.

Griffin said the reality of stepping away from a place where she has worked for 21 years as director and education program coordinator is starting to hit her.

She said she will miss the interaction with the staff, the public and music achievers.

“It’s been good and I’ve had the time of my life.”

For the complete article please see

“Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website
Happy New Year — 2019 Alabama Vacation Guides are officially available. Be sure to order your guide to stay in the loop on everything happening this year. Thank you to our partners who submitted events for the guide.

Get yours today at


Tourism Tuesdays is a free electronic newsletter produced by the Alabama Tourism Department. It contains news about the state tourism department and the Alabama tourism industry.

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