LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — From an Elvis Presley musical romance to a chaotic drug-induced quest to find the American Dream, Las Vegas' film history has pretty much seen it all. But until recently, there is one film experience that we haven't really had yet.
"I dare say it's a little bit like nothing else,” said Chris Ramirez, the CEO of Las Vegas Movie Tours.
The company offers a tour, described by Ramirez as a "ride experience," down the Las Vegas Strip to the Arts District, showcasing locations where iconic scenes were filmed and celebrating the long and diverse cinematic history of the city.
Location scouting for the big screen
If there’s one thing Ramirez knows really well, it’s movie locations. He worked in location management for several big productions including "The Hangover," "The Hangover III" and "Race to Witch Mountain."
Ramirez was the guy in charge of finding and securing spots to film scenes.
"Cool bars that they'd never seen, or cool streets or cool alleys," he explained. Ramirez also helped coordinate scenes inside casinos and worked with agencies like Nevada Highway Patrol for driving scenes.
Take the scene in "Hangover III" when Chow parachutes onto a limo.
The production crew could not shut down the Strip to film it, so instead, the landing was filmed in downtown Las Vegas. The filmmakers decorated the Plaza with fake highlights to spruce up the hotel-casino, he says.
"I have been very involved in the movie industry here and loved it,” he said.
Taking his talents to a 'movie theater on wheels'
Now, he’s taking his expertise to a new kind of movie theater.
"It’s a 25-seat movie theater on wheels,” said Ramirez of the bus they use for the ride. It is not your average tour bus. The Las Vegas Movie Tours bus has screens on screens on screens.
"As we pass all the casinos and properties where these movies were made, we're showing clips on TV screens," he said. "With graphics overhead, like the Fremont Street Experience."
Adding to the immersive experience are the tour guides, who are all actors and artists.
Jason Harris is a filmmaker and comedian in Las Vegas. But on the tour, he has a different persona.
"Did I pick my character? I agreed based on the idea that I was going to get to ride a Segway," he said. Harris plays a Paul Blart-type character. "I have still not ridden that Segway.”
One of his favorite parts of the job is interacting with the guests. "Each tour is going to be different because we base it on the people around who are in each group.”
The guides don’t just joke around. They know a lot about the films and have interesting facts to share. On the tour, I learned that Ed Helms actually has a missing tooth. They worked it into the Hangover film
"This is a really loose environment. Geoff Carter wrote a great script for us, and that's kind of the foundation, but we all have the creative freedom to make the tour our own,” said Harris.
Local Las Vegans know the name, Geoff Carter. He's an established writer and longtime journalist.
In fact, Ramirez points to his team as part of what makes the project so great.
"I think, to a lot of people who know Las Vegas and know Las Vegas art and Las Vegas culture, there are who's who of very talented people that I would thought had no business doing some stupid idea with me," he said. "And they did and it's what made it fun."
"And it's what I think is going to make it really good.”
Hidden gems that are easy to miss
Meanwhile, Ramirez is just full of interesting insights. As part of the tour, the bus stops in the Arts District so you can visit their gift shop, not totally out of the ordinary for a tour experience.
Until he points out that the businesses across the street were also used in the "Hangover III." I've been to that part of town so many times and I had no idea until he said something. In my defense, the storefronts were different for the film. Ramirez says they were designed by the filmmakers.
"I think people will get a lot of information out of it that they might not have known," said Ramirez.
The most underrated Vegas film is...
"The Hangover" was a huge hit. To this day it’s one of the highest grossing R-rated films in the U.S., according to multiple reports including Newsweek and Screen Rant, but I wanted to know what Las Vegas movie Ramirez thought was the most underrated.
"Well, I mean, selfishly?" he asked. "'Frank and Lola' is an indie movie that we produced and went to Sundance.”
Watch the 'Frank and Lola' movie trailer:
"It was set in New York and we changed the script to Las Vegas," he said. "And we shot it all downtown. We used like, Frankie's Tiki, Commonwealth, Downtown Tattoo, Juhl, Carson Kitchen, El Cortez."
"So it's this little movie that was never supposed to be made in Las Vegas — and it's all Las Vegas."
Learn more about Las Vegas Movie Tours on lvmovietours.com.
This story is part of our weekly "How to Vegas" dedicated digital show. Watch it at 10:30 p.m. every Friday -- and throughout the weekend -- using the KTNV app on your favorite streaming device or on-demand at ktnv.com/HowToVegas.
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