Stars, dollar signs shine in Lowell

‘Truth’ be told , movie will bring big business

LOWELL- There have been no lights, no cameras, little action. The red carpet has not been rolled out. Nary a paparazzo has descended.

But crews from This Side of the Truth, the romantic comedy that begins filming in Lowell tomorrow, have made their mark on the local economy.

“They’ve been coming in every night. It’s not a lot of money, but with the economy and gas … every little bit helps,” said Tom Economou, owner of The Dubliner, the low-key Market Street pub the film crew has adopted as their local hangout.
Stars like Jennifer Garner, Rob Lowe and their handlers are coming to town. That means hotel room and location rentals, lunches, limos and nights on the town — an unexpected $2 million pumped into the local economy.

Nabil Ghanem, general manager of the DoubleTree downtown, said spring is normally a brisk time for the hotel. But as key grips and gaffers fill his 252 rooms, he expects the hotel will reap an additional $200,000 in lodging and restaurant business.

“It’s a great opportunity for us. This piece of business will definitely help,” he said.

At the Boott Cotton Mill, scores of employees who make up Truth Productions are working in a 13,000-square-foot space the team leased for three months. Ben Roberts, the building’s leasing agent, said the gain is substantial, especially considering the lagging commercial real-estate market along Interstate 495.

A brush with Hollywood could make this industrial space, which has seen corporations vacate and consolidate during the past few years, a hotter commodity.

“It’s good to get the name out there for the Boott Cotton Mill,” said Roberts. “It creates some energy and buzz. The town is glad to have them.”

The film’s location manager, Tiffany Kinder, said 40 locations in Lowell are being compensated for filming, the Dubliner on Market and La Boniche on Merrimack streets among them.

“I could find as many locations as possible. It’s a big little city within walking distance. It just worked. There’s restaurants, everything’s been great,” said Kinder, who recently moved to Boston from Los Angeles.

Lowell’s density also clicked. “We don’t have to drive 20 miles to the next location,” she said.

About 95 percent of the moderately budgeted film will be shot in Lowell. Downtown restaurants, like Olive That & More and The Mambo Grill are starting to fill large orders. Matthew Descoteaux, owner of the Mambo Grill, filled a Mexican feed for 40 crew members last week.

“Most of these people are from L.A. and they like the Southern California, Baja-style we specialize in.”

The Athenian Corner will not be featured on the silver screen, but will close for tomorrow and Tuesday as crews turn the Greek restaurant into a storage and debriefing zone for directors and talent.

“They will cover what we would normally make in a day,” said Teddy Panagiotopoulos, whose father runs the Market Street tavern next to the Dubliner, where the first scenes are being filmed.

To use the business shutdown to his advantage, Panagiotopoulos will be handing out coupons to the crew and gawkers in the vicinity.

“In the long run, having these people downtown is good,” he said. “This is a large movie crew. At some point they are going to need a drink.”

On Bolt Street, where stars like Ricky Gervais, the director, and Garner practiced wardrobe changes in a vacant warehouse last week, Robert Fawcett, president of National Security Protective Services, stood guard. He has hired 14 to 16 new fulltime employees that will be versed in paparazzi and crowd control while the film’s in town.

“It’s good for our company, it’s exciting to do. People who have not had jobs, will be employed,” he said.

Lumberyards, paint companies and local carpenters are also reaping rewards as sets are built.

Lowell’s mini-windfall is one of many happening statewide. Six other Hollywood productions are being shot this month, in Taunton, Medfield, Beverly, Gloucester, Woburn and Hull, said Nick Paleologos, executive director of the Massachusetts Film Office.

“It’s unbelievable. I felt strongly that things would turn around and it’s amazed me how fast it’s happened,” he said.

To the film’s producer, Lynda Obst, Lowell’s charming American feel was an instant attraction. “The whole city is our back lot,” said Obst.

But the state’s new, increased tax incentive is what ultimately sealed the deal for this Hollywood heavyweight, who has worked on blockbusters like Flashdance and Sleepless in Seattle.

“It was very smart of Massachusetts to invite us in,” she said.

Paleologos could not agree more.

“The Department of Revenue says the state has received a half-billion in new spending since the tax credit went into place 2 1/2 years ago. It’s gone from worst to first,” he said.

Although this is the biggest movie to land locally, Lowell has hosted larger cash cows. The 2006 World Men’s Curling Championship brought $4.1 million of business into the city, said Deb Belanger, executive director of the Greater Merrimack Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Belanger sees a greater reward from the movie, though. When This Side of the Truth hits the multiplex in 2009 and Merrimack Street is splashed across the big screen, “You can’t put a price tag on it,” she said.

Source: THE LOWELL SUN, April 12, 2008, Stars, dollar signs shine in Mill City by: KATHLEEN PIERCE

New dollars: $544 million attributed to film productions
21 is the number on movie in America!



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