Tourism in Los Álamos soars thanks to “Oppenheimer” fame

POPLARS.- Oppenheimerwith almost $1 billion at the box office, not only lined the pockets of Hollywood executives, it also brought unexpected profits to the tourism from the discreet community of Los Álamos.

Directed by Christopher Nolanthe clear favorite to win the Best Picture Oscar on March 10, tells the story of the invention of the atomic bomb.

Much of the action takes place in Los Alamos, a town built around a secret laboratory that was created from scratch in New Mexico at the suggestion of physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, who was passionate about the mountains of that area.

Since its premiere in July, tourists have flooded places such as the Oppenheimer House and the Fuller Lodge building in this community in the southwestern United States, where scientists held parties to celebrate their progress in creating the bomb.

Visits skyrocketed 68% last year, according to local authorities.

“We started seeing this big flow during the spring, even before the movie hit theaters,” said Kathy Anderson, a tour guide who had to triple the number of daily tours.

“If he wins the Oscar, I think there will be a lot more interest.”

But the success also reminded us of Los Alamos’ difficult relationship with its past and with Oppenheimer, who is still known in town as Oppie, his affectionate nickname.

Recovery through tourism

Increased tourism could help raise the $2 billion needed to restore the former home where Oppenheimer and his family once lived.

“Oppenheimer was known for his martinis and for being a good host. A lot happened in these spaces,” said Nic Lewis, a historian at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

At the same time, there is no way to avoid the destruction caused by nuclear bombs in this town where 15,000 scientists still work in the same high-security laboratory.

As the film shows, Oppenheimer himself became a critic of nuclear proliferation during the Cold War.

“I am responsible for ruining a beautiful place,” Oppenheimer confessed, according to American Prometheusthe book on which Nolan’s film is based.

Oppenheimer Profile

“Here we recognize that he was a person, with flaws, mistakes,” Lewis said.

“It was very complicated. It was very thoughtful. I think Nolan portrayed that part of Oppenheimer very accurately.”

Controversies aside, Nolan’s decision to film many scenes in the Los Alamos buildings, where the events occurred, excited the people.

An advertisement in the local newspaper invited the lab’s scientists to appear as extras.

Shane Fogerty, astrophysicist and Nolan enthusiast, ended up explaining nuclear fusion and the genesis of the Moon to stars Cillian Murphy and Robert Downey Jr. between takes.

“Chris (Nolan) had to remind everyone: ‘We’re working, quiet, please. Let’s go to the next take,'” Fogerty recalled.

It is an anecdote that he frequently shares with the growing number of tourists in the town these days.

“It has become more difficult to make reservations at the few restaurants in town,” he said.