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UM study: ‘Yellowstone’ series generates 2.1M visitors, $750M in spending for Montana

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Kevin Costner plays John Dutton, the sixth-generation patriarch of a fictional Montana ranch family, on Paramount’s “Yellowstone” TV series. PHOTO COURTESY OF PARAMOUNT NETWORK

UNIVERSITY OF MONTANA 

MISSOULA—Paramount Network’s “Yellowstone,” TV’s most popular series, has sparked the interest of a worldwide audience, bringing an estimated 2.1 million visitors and $730 million in spending to Montana in 2021, according to a new University of Montana study.

Conducted by UM’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research and UM’s Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research, the study found that the TV show has been a significant factor in marketing Montana. Centered on the fictional Dutton family ranch, “Yellowstone” is largely filmed in Darby, Hamilton, Missoula and the Bitterroot Valley, and it treated more than 12 million viewers to the scenery of Montana during its season-five premiere.

A 2022 study conducted by BBER found “Yellowstone” contributed significantly to the state’s economy, but when the more recent study was extended to include the impact of visitor spending, these effects changed dramatically, according to Patrick Barkey, director of BBER.

“Extending our previous analysis to include the impacts of tourism spending was eye-opening,” Barkey said.

The study found that the combination of visitor spending and film production spending associated with the production of “Yellowstone” in Montana resulted in:

  • $730.1 million in spending to the state’s economy.
  • $44.5 million in state tax revenues directed in whole or in part to the general fund.
  • 10,200-plus jobs across a wide spectrum of industries, including both tourism-related and other industries.
  • $376 million in income received by Montana households.
  • Roughly $1.1 billion in output, or gross receipts, of Montana business and nonbusiness.
  • 1 million visitors to Montana in 2021 whose decision to visit was the result of the show.
  • 3,305 more people attracted and retained to the state by the increased economic opportunity.

“Film is an economic driver of tourism, and the ‘Yellowstone’ TV show has demonstrated the power of Montana’s American West image to influence people to visit the state,” said Melissa Weddell, the ITRR director.

“Everything from food services, hotels, rental companies and transportation services to high tech and skilled trades such as electricians and carpenters, are benefiting from the film industry’s activity in the state,” said Todd O’Hair, president and CEO of the Montana Chamber of Commerce. “It is also clear that ‘Yellowstone’ has proven to be a big economic driver of tourism, creating more jobs, tax generation and a wave of economic activity.”

More information is online in an article titled “Assessing the Impact of the ‘Yellowstone’ Television Series on Montana’s Tourism Economy” in BBER’s Montana Business Quarterly (https://bit.ly/BBERyellowstone). The full UM report is online at https://bit.ly/UMyellTVreport.

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