Location, location, location: a movie buff's choice

Now Local Hero, produced by David (now Lord) Puttnam and starring Burt Lancaster, Denis Lawson and Jenny Seagrove, has topped a poll of the most atmospheric use of a British location.

That the Bafta-winning comedy was ostensibly set on the west coast of Scotland but filmed largely, though by no means entirely, in the picturesque village of Pennan, Aberdeenshire, on the east coast, does not worry fans.

And it certainly does not worry film distributors who conducted the poll among the film writers of Britain's regional press to highlight that while London may be the centre of the UK film industry, the regions do matter - whether for their scenery or cinema-goers.

Three-quarters of UK cinema admissions take place outside London, according to Mark Batey, chief executive of the Film Distributors' Association, which conducted the poll. He said cinema-goers appeared to relish an injection of British scenery, even with the grittier backdrops of The Full Monty and Trainspotting. "The settings almost become characters and give a real flavour to the story," he added.

Thus, the top 40 suggestions of atmospheric locations includes such classics as The French Lieutenant's Woman, filmed in Lyme Regis, Dorset, and the war-time weepy Brief Encounter, for which Carnforth station in Lancashire took the part of Milford Junction.

The list ranges from Whisky Galore! filmed in Barra, the Outer Hebrides, more than half a century ago, to films such as Dirty Pretty Things and The Long Good Friday, which exposed the underbelly of London.

But British films are not merely about entertainment or just a source of national pride. VisitBritain, the national tourism board, has cited British movies as more important to encouraging visitors than staging the 2012 Olympic Games.

Tom Wright, VisitBritain's chief executive, said: "One in five visitors is inspired to holiday in Britain because of a film they have seen. Today, film tourism is a growing global phenomenon creating a new breed of tourist - the 'set-jetter'.

"Over the past 60 years, these films [in the poll] and many more have helped to showcase the essence of Britain's varied destinations, our culture and iconic landmarks, as well as historic and contemporary characters."

It certainly worked for Pennan, where nearly a quarter of a century after Local Hero was filmed, visitors still have their picture taken next to the telephone box - even though it is not even the one in the movie.

Lord Puttnam said he was delighted, but not surprised, that Local Hero had proved so enduringly popular. "It's a film of which I remain immensely proud," he said.

Burt Lancaster, who made the film aged 69 and died 11 years later, was said to have enjoyed his three weeks working in Scotland. "What's nice is that there are no villains, just eccentrics. It's like those lovely old Ealing movies," he said.

Next weekend, 150 members of the regional press will spend four days in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, for the 50th anniversary of the promotional event Cinema Days, deemed so important by British film-makers that stars from Bob Hoskins to the director Terry Gilliam will attend.

The guests will watch forthcoming movies - both British and foreign - including Stephen Frears' Mrs Henderson Presents, shot in London, and The Libertine, starring Johnny Depp, which was filmed on the Isle of Man.

The top five British cinematic settings

Local Hero, FILMED IN SCOTLAND

The Scottish director Bill Forsyth blended Camusdarrach Beach in Morar with the village of Pennan, Aberdeenshire, on the opposite coast, to create the fictional Furness. Other locations included Loch Eilt and the bar of the Lochailort Inn at Lochailort, between Fort Wiliam and Mallaig. The combination of eccentric charm, Scottish landscape and an environmental fairy tale proved a winning one with cinema audiences. The story begins with the representatives of an American petro-chemical corporation, Knox Oil and Gas, arriving in the small village of Furness to investigate building a giant refinery. The locals outwit the incomers in a variety of startling ways

The Full Monty, SHEFFIELD

The story of a group of unemployed men who find a new source of income as male strippers became a surprise hit. Cast included Robert Carlyle

Trainspotting, EDINBURGH AND GLASGOW

Irvine Welsh's gritty novel of drug addiction was translated to the big screen by Danny Boyle and established Ewan McGregor as a major star

The Railway Children, YORKSHIRE

This film version of the classic children's book by E Nesbit starred a young Jenny Agutter as the petticoat-waving heroine. Directed by Lionel Jeffries

American Werewolf, LONDON AND WINDSOR

The story of two American tourists on a walking holiday who are attacked by a werewolf. Windsor Great Park stood in for the Yorkshire moors

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