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‘Lone Ranger’ brings swarms of media to Santa Fe

SANTA FE, N.M. — Coming to a place near you: 300 junketing movie journalists.

The press launch for “The Lone Ranger,” the Johnny Depp/Armie Hammer movie filmed largely in New Mexico last year, will take place around Santa Fe starting Monday, according to Santa Fe city government.

A city news release said more than 300 movie writers and broadcast journalists from all over the world are expected to be flown in for the event.

This isn’t the premiere of the Disney movie, which is being hyped as a major summer blockbuster. It’s the gathering where the journalists and critics get to see the movie in advance of its release and conduct interviews with the stars, activities intended to promote the film.

Representatives of assorted public agencies, including the state Film Office and the state Tourism Department, were tight-lipped about the press launch, apparently because of firm controls imposed by Disney.

But city government issued a news release about it Friday.

Actually, the release was primarily about why the city’s motocross track in the La Tierra Trail area west of N.M. 599 would be open next week. The Buckman Track has been closed since last fall because of concerns about liability insurance.

The track will still be closed to the public next week, but it’s been licensed to a company representing Kawasaki, a cycle manufacturer, as part of the press launch, under an arrangement that “includes substantial private insurance coverage.”

What’s a motocross track got to do with “The Lone Ranger”?

“Kawasaki will be using professional drivers to take members of the press and other guests on side-by-side rides as part of their experience in Santa Fe and northern New Mexico,” the city news release said.

“They want the journalists to be happy and have a good time,” said Kate Noble, head of the city’s Economic Development Division.

To that end, the state Tourism Department has prepared 315 gift bags for the junketeers featuring items like biscochitos, blue corn popcorn and red chile pistachios, according to a department spokeswoman.

Noble said this is the first time Santa Fe has hosted a movie press launch on this scale. “It’s very exciting,” she said.

Efforts to reach Disney through the Film Office or by other means were unsuccessful Friday.

But one theory being offered for why the press event is coming to Santa Fe instead of Hollywood or New York is that Depp – whose flamboyant make-up for the role of Tonto in “The Lone Ranger” is already famous from photos and the recently released film trailer – is making another movie in New Mexico. That’s “Transcendence,” about scientists trying to build the first self-aware computer.

The idea was apparently to have the media circus come to Depp, instead of the star leaving his work on “Transcendence” to accommodate the hype-fest.

In any case, it’s a good thing for Santa Fe.

“It really does highlight how important the film industry is in our community, economically,” said Cynthia Delgado of the city Convention and Visitors Bureau. “Not just when they’re making the movies in Santa Fe and New Mexico.

“New Mexico is really being highlighted,” Delgado said.

Noble said the 300 journalists expected for the event doesn’t represent how huge the press launch will be. “I think Disney is sending a small army,” she said.

Noble also said city officials hope to steer the visiting journalists’ attention to Santa Fe with a film fact sheet. “Why not a second story about ‘Crazy Heart’ and Evangelo’s?” Noble asked, referring to a scene filmed in the local bar for Jeff Bridges’ movie.

Noble said the event will include receptions and showings of “The Lone Ranger” for the press at the Regal 14. She said receptions are planned around town Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

Rumor has it that Bishop’s Lodge will be headquarters for the press launch.

Richard Verruni, the lodge’s managing director, had no comment. “Our groups are confidential,” he said.