University of Montana (UM) studies have shown the economic impact of Yellowstone on the state. But what happens when the wagon leaves town?
It’s a mixed bag. To some, Yellowstone has been directly responsible for causing the very plight the show’s heroes fight season after season. As John Dutton grumbled over Californians and NYC bankrollers invading his western paradise, the real citizens of Montana were dealing with the very same in real time.
Yellowstone brought everyone to Montana. Not just Paramount Network and the mammoth crew, cast, and fans to follow, but also a literal wave of Americans migrating to the state in hopes of claiming a piece of Dutton paradise for themselves. And the impact was enormous.
In 2021, UM’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research and UM’s Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research jointly found that Yellowstone‘s production brought in over $730 million in spending to Montana’s economy, alongside 10,200-plus jobs ranging from crew work to tourism. These numbers would skyrocket over 2022, which news outlets named “The Year of Yellowstone.”
Mainstream news out of Bozeman is understandably bleak this week after Paramount announced an end to their Western giant. As the franchise’s focus shifts away from the state, will the money, too?
“I’m sure it’s in most people’s minds, is that since we studied the show, and it’s filming in the state, and showed that it had some pretty significant impacts on employment and income and so forth, that the end of the show would produce the reverse,” UM Bureau of Business and Economic Research’s Patrick Barkey tells NBC Montana.
But the show must go on.
‘Yellowstone’ is shifting focus. What of the spinoffs?
“Obviously there’s the spin offs, and there’s other interest in filming in Montana. In that sense, the other things that the show did will go on,” Barkey continues. And he’s right.
Yellowstone’s second spinoff, 1923, brought Harrison Ford and Helen Mirren to Montana for a phenomenally-received first season. Another will follow, which guarantees at least another year of filming in Bozeman, Billings, and surrounding areas.
The direct sequel to follow Yellowstone, however, looks set to shift focus to Taylor Sheridan‘s native Texas. So, too, did the first prequel, 1883. So where, when, and how future prequels (Sheridan has mentioned wanting to chronicle the Duttons during the 40s and 60s) will feature the Treasure State offers a bit more hope of the “unknown” variety.
Regardless, the same UM study cites Yellowstone bringing in 2.1 million visitors to Montana in 2021 alone. And when tourists where surveyed, the majority said they decided to visit because of the show.
“The marketing of the state through the show, the people whose interest in Montana is elevated, [those people] change their plans, and they come here and spend money and so forth,” Barkey adds. “I think it has brought more film industry support activity to the state of Montana, which makes us more competitive as a site for future productions of all kinds.”
This is already proving true, too. Alec Baldwins much-troubled Rust film is filming using the state’s Yellowstone locations in and around Paradise Valley. More will follow.
But ask a Montanan, and they’re likely to be thrilled with the franchise’s shift to Texas. Unless they’re one of the thousands employed by the show and its legacy. Then, the sting is already starting.