LINCOLN, R.I. — Benjamin Chase’s farm is now forever a part of Disney’s legacy.
The 80-acre farmstead on the rolling hills outside Lincoln, R.I., provides the haunting backdrop for the long-awaited “Hocus Pocus 2″ sequel and will host this weekend’s BeWitched and BeDazzled festival celebrating fall and the filming of the movie. The film is being released Friday on Disney+.
An early screening of the movie took place at Showcase Cinema in Warwick, which was watched by an invitation-only crowd that included Governor Dan McKee, Lieutenant Governor Sabina Matos, Rhode Island state senator Dominic Ruggerio, members of the General Assembly, film extras, and volunteers.
After the film, McKee told the Globe that “Hocus Pocus 2″ is a movie “That’s going to be seen around the world. ... I think that it’s Rhode Island’s time.”
The governor gave the movie a positive review, simply saying that he “enjoyed it.”
The family-friendly festival is a one-day affair with more than 80 vendors, costume contests, psychics, hayrides, live music, storytellers, and more. However, only those who have pre-purchased tickets online can attend.
The event has drawn interest from nearly 20,000 people, and 4,000 tickets for the event sold out within a month. Organizers and the Lincoln town administrator Philip Gould emphasized that tickets are not available at the gate.
Gould reined in the event by putting a cap on attendance due to concerns about large crowds and public safety. He said the town and organizers will discuss expanding the festival in the future.
Gould said the town is “excited that the movie is coming out” but was frank about what he expected at the inaugural event.
“It’s a great location we have but we are certainly limiting tickets,” he said, noting he was worried when he saw interest explode. “I’m nervous people are going to think it’s a free-for-all and that’s not going to be the case.”
You could fit nearly a whole town on the vast Chase property, but that’s more than local law enforcement and emergency personnel could handle. And if the popularity during filming is any indication, Gould said it was best to err on the side of caution.
“When the movie was being filmed we had a lot of people coming in trying to take a look at the set,” Gould said of onlookers who showed up at all hours of the day.
Currently, the Memorial Day parade is Lincoln’s biggest public celebration, and the town is looking for new ways to boost the economy. Last month, Lincoln received a grant to install a portable stage for a summer concert series, and host farmer’s markets.
Interest in the festival is similar to the attention Salem, Mass., received after the TV show “BeWitched” (which ran from 1964 to 1972 and filmed in Salem, Mass. in June 1970) and the original “Hocus Pocus” (1993) stirred interest in witches. “Hocus Pocus” was set in Salem Village (present-day Danvers, Mass.). The film cost $28 million and made a modest box-office profit but grew a cult following over the years.
The movie stars the Sanderson sisters, played by Bette Midler (Winifred), Kathy Najimy (Mary), and Sarah-Jessica Parker (Sarah), a trio of 300-year-old witches who are conjured up from 17th-century Salem by unsuspecting pranksters. They try to reclaim their youth with a spell.
While pieces of the first “Hocus Pocus” were filmed in Salem, Mass., the popularity of the area, which is hosting Salem Haunted Happenings for the 40th year, made the location too busy for filming a sequel. Disney+ brought the production of nearly the entire film to multiple locations in Rhode Island. Other than Chase Farm, filming took place at Washington Park in Newport, Newman Cemetery in Rumford, historic Benefit Street, Federal Hill, and the armory in Providence.
Chase Farm was settled 31 years before the infamous Salem Witch Trials (from February 1692 to May 1693) but has no link to witchcraft, witches, or trials. Rhode Island’s biggest claim to paranormal fame is vampires and ghosts.
But Kathy Chase Hartley, whose family owned Chase Farm for four generations, is proud that Disney chose their farm to re-light the black flame candle. Her grandfather, Benjamin Chase, was a fan of Disney and the owner of one of the first color televisions in Lincoln.
Benjamin would invite people to the farm to watch the “Wonderful World of Disney,” which premiered on Oct. 27, 1954 under the name “Disneyland” and was later called “Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color.” The farmhouse audience was awed by the opening sequence that showed Tinkerbell in a bright green dress tap the top of the castle that appeared at the top of the screen, unleashing awesome fireworks sparks across the screen, Chase Hartley said.
Chase Hartley, whose favorite Disney movies are “Cinderella” and “Bambi,” said the town purchased Chase Farm to preserve it, inspiring her to create the nonprofit Friends of Hearthside. She now manages the farm and other nearby historic buildings in Lincoln, she told the Globe.
Previous Disney films produced in Rhode Island include: “Underdog (2007)” and “Dan in Real Life,” both in 2007, and “Body of Proof.”
In April, Rhode Island Film and Television Office Executive Director Steve Feinberg told the Newport Daily News that productions spend a minimum of $100,00 in Rhode Island in order to qualify for a 30 percent tax credit, and every tax dollar incentive creates $5.44 of economic spending in the state.
The filming of the movie inspired Chase Hartley to create the BeWitched and BeDazzled Festival, and she was overwhelmed by the sudden response and preparation. Tickets for the event only went on sale last month for $13 each, which means the event has grossed at least $52,000.
The festival is intended to raise money that goes back into historical preservation for Chase Farm and four other town-owned properties nearby.
”My grandfather was an early preservationist. He didn’t want to see his land developed,” she said. “He wanted to preserve the land so the public could enjoy it.”
But could the attention that comes from filming “Hocus Pocus 2″ become an economic boost for Rhode Island without having a history of witches?
Chase Hartley said interest in films such as “Jaws,” which was filmed on Martha’s Vineyard, create long-term interest in filming locations.
“If you go to Martha’s Vineyard, people are still going to the place where ‘Jaws’ was filmed more than 40 years later,” she said. “That fact we are doing the festival, I think it’ll create a lot of energy and become an annual event that puts Lincoln on the map. This was the coolest. That village was so authentic. It was so temporary and people thought it looked great. It’s all a marriage and Disney made it so magical.”