‘Love Island’ a boon for island

  • “Love Island,” a dating reality show, will film its third season this summer on the Big Island. Courtesy photo

  • Kelsey Walling/Tribune-Herald The Grand Naniloa Hotel in Hilo on Wednesday, June 2, 2021.

Shooting begins next month for one of the largest film productions on the Big Island in years.

“Love Island,” a dating reality show in which a group of singles gather at a tropical resort and compete to pair up with each other, will film its third season this summer in East Hawaii — and inject millions of dollars into the local economy.

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“It’s definitely the biggest thing we’ve had filming here since I started working here,” said Justin Finestone, commissioner for the Hawaii Island Film Office.

State Film Commissioner Donne Dawson estimated the total budget for the production is “easily double” that of “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” which spent nearly $20 million filming on the Big Island in 2008.

“It’s really a different kind of production,” Dawson said, explaining that, while “Indiana Jones” only filmed a handful of jungle scenes near Hilo, the entire third season of “Love Island” will be filmed on Hawaii Island, with new episodes airing each weekday between July 7 and Aug. 15.

Finestone said he believes shooting will take place primarily on private property on the Hamakua Coast, but also contestants will go on “dates” that might include public locales around the island, so the CBS show is poised to pump a lot of money into local businesses.

Dawson said that the production of “Love Island” will generate about 1.73 times its budget in overall economic activity on the island, based on film office calculations.

“So, if you look at ‘Indiana Jones,’ for example, that was more than $30 million coming into the Big Island, and this will be double that,” Dawson said.

Dawson estimated that some 300 to 400 crew members will arrive on the island over the next month.

Jason Tolbert, vice president of Babygrande PR, the public relations firm representing “Love Island” production company ITV, said the production also will hire an additional 100 local crew from island residents, and will work with “a wide variety of local vendors.”

Dawson and Finestone agreed that the arrival of “Love Island” is a boon for the island and the state, whose tourist-centered economies are struggling to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Indeed, the show is a lifeline for the Grand Naniloa Hotel in Hilo, which has been fully booked by the production to host the crew until the end of August.

Ed Bushor, CEO of Tower Development, a managing partner of the hotel, said last week that the $6 million contract with ITV will allow the hotel to pay a year of unpaid rent to the state.

The Board of Land and Natural Resources told Bushor last week that it would consider terminating the hotel’s lease of the state lands on Banyan Drive if it fails to repay its debts.

Dawson said the film industry, like most industries, has suffered during the COVID-19 pandemic. But, she added, it is also one of the best-positioned industries to return to business safely.

“(ITV) is adhering to very strict COVID protocols throughout the shoot,” Dawson said.

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Finestone added the production is conducting its own COVID tests and has required most of the cast and crew to be vaccinated.

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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