Old Tucson western movie site to find new operator; aims to reopen

Old Tucson has served as a film set for classic movies, television productions and commercials.

TUCSON, Ariz. — A company that operates historic railroads in Colorado and North Carolina is set to resume operations of Old Tucson, a western-themed attraction that served as a film set for classic movies, TV productions and commercials, officials said.

On Friday, Pima County officials recommended that the county board of supervisors approve a deal for the Durango, Colo.-based company American Heritage Railroads take over the southern Arizona landmark, local media reported.

The former operator of Old Tucson closed the attraction in 2020 due to the financial fallout from the coronavirus. The lease for the 180-acre (73-hectare) site in the desert on the western outskirts of Tucson went to Pima County, the landlord.

Built in 1939 as a replica of the 1860s Tucson by Paramount Pictures for the film “Arizona”, Old Tucson has served as the site of more than 400 films, television series, music videos and commercials.

A fire destroyed much of the attraction in 1995.

“We’re all excited for this opportunity to be in Tucson, to work in Old Tucson, which is such a historic site, and to really bring what we do best – which is entertainment, preservation and the return of this property to life,” said John Harper, director of American Heritage Railways. KGUN-TV.

American Heritage Railways properties include the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railway in Durango and the Great Smokey Mountains Railway in Bryson City, North Carolina.

The county council is expected to vote on April 5 on a five-year operating agreement with possible extensions, the Arizona Daily Star and KOLD-TV reported.

The company would pay Pima County $60,000 a year to lease the property and 4% of its annual gross operating revenue, with the money earmarked for capital maintenance and expansion.

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