A film that's backed by Lionsgate could be a boost to the Marineland Dolphin Adventure brand.
Wearing a blue-and-green wetsuit, 9-year-old Lola Sultan stands knee deep on a slope that leads into a water tank at Marineland Dolphin Adventure on a sunny afternoon. When she gets the go-ahead, she hops into the water and makes a splash.
Doesn’t seem too dramatic, but, somehow, this simple action caught on camera Feb. 6 will be spliced into a long series of shots to make a family adventure movie starring Kevin Sorbo, TV’s “Hercules” from the 1990s (although none of his scenes required him to be at Marineland, so he didn’t make the trip).
The movie is about two kids, a brother-sister duo, who uncover a plot to destroy a cove inhabited by dolphins. Holly, played by Lola, learns she can communicate with the dolphins, who save her one day when she almost drowns. Then, the brother and sister come up with their own plot to save the cove.
Producer/Co-writer Marty Poole tells me the movie idea was conceived in about an hour, after he and his collaborators decided to try to fill a niche: family movies involving exotic animals. They wrote a script, Grindstone/Lionsgate bought it, and they were off.
With a small budget, “Bernie the Dolphin” is being shot on a very tight schedule — 18 days, including three at Marineland, the “local aquarium” that rehabilitates the dolphin in the movie. But thanks to Lionsgate, “Bernie the Dolphin” is guaranteed some promotional heft, and it will, at a minimum, end up on DVD and Netflix/Amazon. If you want to see it, you’ll find it, when it is released in a year. And if you’re patient enough for the ending credits, you’ll see the kid stars having fun in an immersion experience at Marineland.
During the shoot, one man is beaming more widely than the rest: Gary Inks, who is the facility’s new general manager (replacing Kurt Allen). He sees hosting “Bernie” as a win for Marineland, which was once famous as a movie studio. This year is the 80th anniversary of Marineland, and the excitement of a movie production is a timely boost to the brand as the facility both celebrates its past and tries to tries to leap forward as a successful regional attraction.
“‘Bernie’ becomes a story that will live on here in Marineland for many years to come,” Inks says.
Email Brian McMillan at [email protected].