NEWPORT FOOD SCENE: 'Hocus Pocus 2' has been magical and a boost for nearby restaurants

When “Hocus Pocus 2” is finally released next fall, it’s going to be a fun watch for Aquidneck Islanders.

Not only will we be tuning in to see the familiar Newport backdrops, but many of us will also be watching to see the scenes we saw being filmed. Hopefully the Jane Pickens Theater will have a big viewing party.

We’ll sit back with buckets of popcorn and watch the Sanderson Sisters make their return to Salem, even though we’ll all know they were actually on Touro Street. It’s not every day we get to watch a movie being filmed right here on our very streets, and it’s been an exciting time around town.

Dan Lederer
Dan Lederer

I hope it’s something we’ll get to see more of in the future. There may be naysayers. There will be people who don’t feel all this Hollywood is good for the city’s image. They will say it’s too much of a nuisance and not worth the effort. And if you were diverted by the downtown traffic last week, you might see their point.

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But on the other hand, watching the Salem Scare Fest come to life on Washington Square has been quite the spectacle. A little Hollywood magic within the charm of Newport in autumn. Best of all, it’s brought people out to see what all the hubbub is about. And when we can get people out and about town, it’s a good thing.

Cheers to the Rhode Island Film and Television Office for helping to bring the “Hocus Pocus 2” production to town. Its efforts as a liaison between the film industry and the state to bring productions to our towns is paying off. Landing a movie like HP2 is a big win, especially when it brings star power like Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy and Sarah Jessica Parker along for the broom ride.

Washington Square restaurants Bar 'Cino and Stoneacre Brasserie took advantage of the increased foot traffic during the filming of 'Hocus Pocus 2.'
Washington Square restaurants Bar 'Cino and Stoneacre Brasserie took advantage of the increased foot traffic during the filming of 'Hocus Pocus 2.'

Big-movie productions bring jobs and exposure. That’s important for our area. And it also means increased revenue for the hospitality industry. If you have spent any time checking out the film set, you’ve see the rather large crew. There are carpenters, set designers, lighting specialists, camera operators, actors, security, drivers and more.

It's its own little village. All these people need to eat and drink and sleep, so this village of production is spending money in our village. We’ll gladly take their cash.

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It’s been a boost for local restaurants. While the production company has its own craft services, there have been sightings of local food trucks like La Costa Lobsters & Tacos and Frisky Fries parked alongside the movie set throughout the week. You can also see crew members picking up to-go food and bringing it back to eat on site.

Some have even taken time to relax after a long day of shooting in the bars or cozy corners of our local eateries. And it isn’t just crew members eating. The spectators who come downtown to check out the movie also are looking to be fed. The hottest seats in town these days are the tables at Bar ‘Cino and Stoneacre Brasserie, where it feels like you are part of the set.

Around the corner at Perro Salado, you can still feel the energy with the outside garden hopping with cinematic fever. Meanwhile at Fastnet, which actually glows in the overhead lights from the nearby set, HP2 is the topic of choice over pints at the pub. Any spot within walking distance of Washington Square is enjoying the increased foot traffic. It’s like the movies taught us: “If you build it, they will come.”

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It would be nice to see more of the movie’s stars out and about town. We would love to see Sarah Jessica Parker do for the Mad Hatter Bakery what she did for the Magnolia Bakery in NYC. (The Mad Hatter’s cupcakes are better.)

A sign posed on Washington Square informs passersby that 'businesses will remain open during filming.'
A sign posed on Washington Square informs passersby that 'businesses will remain open during filming.'

We would delight in seeing Bette Midler eating at the International Pocket Cafe and singing, “Did you ever know that you're my gyro?” Perhaps even a surprise appearance of all three Sanderson Sisters at the Celtica Public House for karaoke.

But we also know that being star-struck is not a very Newporty thing. We can’t maintain our image as a seaside escape if we make every celebrity appearance a spectacle. We have to play this one cool. In the long run, if celebrities see the Island as a place where they feel comfortable, they’ll be more eager to work here. So if we have to limit our fandom to waving from behind police lines 50 yards away, we can make that happen. (Note my restraint, Tony Hale.)

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Watching a movie set come to life has been exciting for our city. It’s a reminder to us all about how picturesque and storied our streets are. We sometimes forget that. A little witchcraft casts a light on all our good sides. There’s magic in these streets, stories in these old buildings and drama in every wave washing ashore — a cinematographer’s dream.

Someone tell the film industry to come see how good we look. Tell them to come hungry too.

Dan Lederer is a Middletown resident with 30 years experience in the food service industry throughout New England. He continues to work locally behind the scenes within the industry and remains a devoted fan of all things restaurant and hospitality related. His column appears on and Thursdays in The Daily News. Cheers!

This article originally appeared on Newport Daily News: FOOD SCENE: 'Hocus Pocus 2' gave Newport RI restaurants a boost