Boston Movie Mania Boosts Retail

By Katherine Bowers
Women’s Wear Daily
June 18, 2008

BOSTON — Actress Jayma Mays filmed mall hostage scenes here for two months
before discovering Louis Boston, the upscale specialty retailer on Newbury
Street. “I never knew what was in here,” she said, sliding into a chair at the
store’s cafe, Boston Public. “This is fantastic.”

Mays, who has appeared on ABC’s “Ugly Betty,” NBC’s “Heroes” and other TV
shows, spent March through May shooting the role of a worker in a mall
hair-extensions kiosk in the comedy “Paul Blart: Mall Cop,” starring Kevin
James. In Boston, Mays’ co-workers splurged at Marc Jacobs, Envi, Calypso
and Gretta Luxe, and the movie’s costume designer, Ellen Lutter, spent more
than $100,000 locally.

Apparel stores have been among the major beneficiaries of a 25 percent film
tax credit established by the state legislature in 2006, which has lured
major movie projects and generated millions of dollars in sales around
Greater Boston. Revenue generated by movie shoots in Massachusetts will jump
to $380 million so far this year from $6 million in 2005. Including
television commercials, there have been 88 projects and $550 million in film
revenues since 2006.

“Any business is good business. We say bring it on,” said Barneys New York
spokeswoman Dawn Brown. Barneys has assigned a staffer in Boston to assist
costume designers. Saks Fifth Avenue has taken a similar measure, said “Bride Wars” costume designer Karen Patch. Spending her way through “at least” $100,000, Patch hit Escada, Armani and Saks (mother-of-the-bride looks for Candice Bergen). At Louis Boston, she stocked up on cashmere sweaters and Loeffler Randall shoes for Anne Hathaway’s character.

For “Bride Wars,” a Cambridge storefront was transformed into a Vera Wang
boutique where co-stars Kate Hudson and Hathaway shop, a bit of brand
exposure that can only boost the actual Boston Vera Wang salon on Newbury
Street. Wang made custom gowns for the film — a lace-and-tulle number for
Hudson and blush taffeta for Hathaway.

“Mall Cop” worked with retailers on several scenes. For one, a fight between
mall cop James and a portly woman in Victoria’s Secret, the innerwear chain
flew in two visual merchandisers to ensure the brand was properly
represented, said Carl Randal, the film’s brand integration consultant.
Quiksilver donated Roxy and Quiksilver clothing for a scene in a surf shop.
Seven films recently have been shot in or around the city, including “The
Proposal,” starring Sandra Bullock, and “Ghost of Girlfriends Past,”
featuring Jennifer Garner.

Beyond direct spending, films will generate $1.3 billion in “ripple effect” revenues for the first half of this year, said Nick Paleologos, executive director of the Massachusetts Film Office. The ripple effect comes from secondary spending and/or job creation — cast and crews housed for weeks in hotels, running tabs in local bars and swiping credit cards in shops.

Lutter estimated the dry cleaning and tailoring bill for “Mall Cop” was more
than $10,000 weeks before the shoot ended. Whether Boston stays a moviemaking hot spot is uncertain because of rising competition from states such as New York, Michigan and California offering similar, or more generous rebates.

The movies are about the best form of global marketing for a city, said Larry Meehan, vice president of tourism for the Greater Boston Convention and Visitors Bureau. “International productions are now beginning filming here,” he said, adding that the bureau plans promotions overseas as movies filmed in Boston are released next year. Among them is a remake of “The Women,” starring Meg Ryan, Annette Bening, Jada Pinkett Smith and Eva Mendes, and produced by Mick Jagger.

Until a few years ago, the city’s reputation as high-cost and hostile kept
Hollywood away. “The Departed,” which won the 2006 Oscar for Best Picture,
came only for a two-week shot of exteriors, despite being set entirely in
South Boston.

Paleologos said no productions are booked after the Screen Actors Guild
contract expires on June 30, raising the possibility of labor strife.
Although some citizen groups have complained that it is unfair for the state
to single out an industry for tax rebates, lawmakers have been readying
incentive-laden legislation that could pave the way for two soundstage
proposals to start construction south of Boston. They would be used for
commercials, voice-overs, postproduction and interior sets, and would allow
the state to keep productions for longer periods.

Producer Bob Papazian of ISG Studios is spearheading a proposed $300
million, 30-acre complex of 10 to 15 soundstages at SouthField, a new
development in Weymouth, Mass., 10 miles outside the city.

Another deal, Plymouth Rock Studios, proposed by a former Paramount Pictures
executive, calls for a $500 million campus on 1,000 acres with 14
soundstages in Plymouth, Mass., about 40 miles south of Boston.
Papazian said part of Massachusetts’ strength is a technical,
entrepreneurial community coming out of the universities and diverse
locations packed into a small geographic area (seashore, farms, historic
mill cities like Lowell, quaint suburbs and Boston).

Last year, “Pink Panther 2,” starring Steve Martin, used the Back Bay
neighborhood to simulate Paris, while “The Proposal” has substituted
seashore towns on Cape Ann, north of Boston, to mimic Alaska.
“The only reason they’re going up to Alaska at all is we don’t have a
glacier,” said Angela Peri, owner of Boston Casting, who has been rounding
up extras to play wedding guests, Inuits and Jersey mall shoppers. Her
revenues are up 40 percent this year.

Even if production follows bigger tax credits elsewhere, movies–particularly the few that become iconic–have a way of generating business for years.

At Boston Movie tours, revenues spiked 30 percent this year, said operations manager Stephanie Costello. A nondescript building on Sleeper Street in South Boston has become a top-requested stop because of “The Departed.” “They all want to see where Martin Sheen is pushed off the roof,” Costello said.

Film tax break helps Massachusetts go Hollywood
Next on Mass. filmmaking checklist: Soundstage



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