'Breaking Bad' has been good to New Mexico
The departing AMC series has spent millions on goods, services and wages in the state, and local businesses have capitalized on its notoriety. 'Crystal meth' candy, anyone?
A billboard in Albuquerque. The show spent an estimated $60 million to $70 million on goods, services and wages in New Mexico. (New Mexico Film Office)
At the Candy Lady shop in Albuquerque, customers can chose from 20 flavors of fudge, a wall of licorice, handmade chocolates and bags of blue-tinged crystals made of rock candy.
Owner Debbie Ball calls it "Breaking Bad Candy" after the show that, until recently, was a fixture in her community.
Ball supplied 100 pounds of the candy as a crystal meth prop for the AMC series "Breaking Bad," about a chemistry teacher turned methamphetamine maker. When the show stopped needing her services, Ball decided to sell the crystals in her store. In the last year, she has sold 30,000 bags for $1 each.
Fans of "Breaking Bad" aren't the only ones lamenting the pending end of the series, which wrapped filming in late April and premieres the first of its final eight episodes Sunday. The production spent an estimated $1 million per episode in Albuquerque, providing an economic boon to many local companies that supplied goods and services and capitalized on the show's growing fan base, pitching everything from location tours to bath salts that promise to "relax away the Bad."
"We're all disappointed because it's given Albuquerque so much publicity, whether it's good or bad, and still brings people into the store," Ball said. "We have people who interrupt their vacations just to visit the locations and buy the candy."
For $65, fans can take a 3 1/2-hour tour of some of the popular locations featured in "Breaking Bad," including such unglamorous sites as a carwash, a restaurant called Twisters (which stands in for the fictional Los Pollos Hermanos), a law office, the Crossroads Motel and the homes of characters on the show.
"We've had customers from Germany, UK, Philippines, France, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand," said Jesse Herron, co-owner of ABQ Trolley Co. "We ask them what brings them to Albuquerque and 9 times out of 10 it's because of the show. It's crazy."
"Breaking Bad" has been a long-running success story for New Mexico's film industry, which has seen its ups and downs in recent years. The state became a hotbed for film production, especially under the administration of former Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson, but filming dropped off two years ago when newly elected Republican Gov. Susana Martinez called for a big cut in the state's film rebate program.
Martinez then changed course and recently approved legislation that increased the state's rebate to 30% from 25% for TV series shooting at least six episodes in the state.
The new incentive was dubbed "The Breaking Bad Bill" in recognition of the series' contributions to New Mexico.
Since production began in 2007, "Breaking Bad" has spent an estimated $60 million to $70 million on goods, services and wages for crew members in New Mexico — not counting wages paid to actors, writers and directors — said a source close to the show who was not authorized to speak publicly.
The production employed a cast and crew of 120 people over 62 episodes, 90% of whom were New Mexico residents.
The show's stars Bryan Cranston (who plays Walter White) and Aaron Paul (his partner, Jesse Pinkman) bought homes in Albuquerque and lived in the city during filming.
The series helped establish New Mexico as a key hub for movies such as "The Avengers" and "The Lone Ranger" and for other television shows, said Nick Maniatis, director of the New Mexico Film Office.
"It allowed for other producers and studios to say, 'Hey, they can shoot quality work in a state with quality crews and facilities,'" Maniatis said. The A&E series "Longmire" also films in New Mexico and two undisclosed TV series are in preproduction, film industry officials said.
Local film industry veterans also remain optimistic that Sony could film a "Breaking Bad" spinoff series centered on the lawyer Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) at Albuquerque Studios, where "Breaking Bad" was based.
A spokeswoman for Sony Pictures Television declined to comment.
Although initially hesitant to promote the show because of its depiction of criminal activity, the Albuquerque Convention and Visitors Bureau has made "Breaking Bad" a centerpiece of a film tourism campaign. The bureau provides a self-guided walking tour on its website listing the locations used in the series.
"It's been great for the city and given us new avenues to promote the city along with our film tourism program," bureau spokeswoman Megan Mayo Ryan said.