Devon

Hollywood film based on Dartmoor Zoo

Ben Mee and Matt Damon
Image caption Ben Mee has returned from the Hollywood set where he met Matt Damon

A cash-strapped Devon zoo hopes a Hollywood film can change its fortunes.

We Bought a Zoo, starring Matt Damon, is about the Mee family's purchase of Dartmoor Zoo in 2006.

The zoo went into liquidation in 2010 and an advance from the film's producers of $400,000 (£245,000) went towards paying creditors.

The zoo, which is home to 220 animals and employs 20 staff, hopes the film will attract visitors from around the world when it is released in December.

Warm spring weather has brought in more visitors, said Ben Mee, 46, who wrote the book We Bought a Zoo.

"We're bracing ourselves for influx of visitors around this time," he added.

"People will be interested in Sparkwell in Devon for quite a few years.

"The whole area should benefit."

'Very strange'

The zoo is still under the management of a new operating company since it went into liquidation and still owes money to creditors.

They would be first in line to be paid from the share of profits from the film, said Mr Mee.

The film follows the story of the Surrey family's purchase of the zoo, which had been closed by inspectors, and its reopening in 2007.

Last weekend Mr Mee and his two children Milo, 10 and Ella, eight, toured the set in California and met Damon, who plays him in the film.

"I sat in the tiger house with the director Cameron Crowe," said Mr Mee.

"There's this huge camera and Matt Damon with Benjamin Mee on his name tag.

"It was all very strange and interesting."

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