By Robert Cann
Gloucester Daily Times
March 10, 2009
ESSEX — Adam Sandler’s comedies are known for producing grins.
His next movie, to be filmed this summer in Essex, has already brought smiles to the faces of residents. “It’s the most exciting thing that’s happened in many years,” said Bob Coviello, owner of Main Street Antiques and member of the Essex Merchant group. Selectmen entered into an agreement Monday night with Lakefront Productions Inc. to film a feature movie starring Sandler at the town’s Centennial Grove this summer. “It brings a lot of energy to our town during difficult economic times,” said Selectman Chairman Ray Randall, who added that there will be financial benefits for the town.
The agreement, which gives the production company the right to use Centennial Grove, the Field of Dreams baseball field and “Grove Cottage,” from this week until Sept. 15, will bring the town $150,000 in property use and parking fees. That money, divided evenly into three payments, will go into the general fund for the year in which they’re received, said Town Administrator Brendhan Zubricki.
The first two payments — one due this week and a second due May 1, will go into the fiscal 2009 general fund and will be used as free cash, Zubricki said. The third payment will come when the filming is finished.
“It could not come at a better time for us,” said Finance Committee Chairman Jeff Soulard. “This becomes a huge bonus for us that can really help us bridge the gap between now and when we get back to some better economic times.”
Beyond the “financial boon to the town to lease the Grove,” said Coviello, “there will be considerable spill-off, I assume, to local businesses, restaurants and antique shops.”
“It’s a great uplift in terms of spirits,” Coveillo said. “It’s been a long winter.”
Bob Hastings, executive director of the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce, hailed the film agreement as “a great story not only for Essex, but for all of Cape Ann.” He said that not only will news of the movie bring more tourists to the area, but movie crews will also be renting houses and spending “a tremendous amount of money in the area to support the film.”
The last movie to be shot in Essex was “The Crucible,” which was filmed on Hog Island in 1995. Kurt Wilhelm, of the Essex Historical Commission, said that during filming, Winona Ryder, who starred in the film, lived on Western Avenue.
Hastings said that the agreement to shoot this movie, as well as other recent films that have been shot in the area, are examples of the positive impact of the commonwealth’s recent incentives — most notably an upgrading of the Massachusetts Film Tax Credit in 2006. That package makes companies that spend at least half of their production budget in the state eligible for a tax credit of 25 cents for every dollar of spent in Massachusetts.
“When the government provides economic incentives, you get economic benefits out of it,” Hastings said. Most recently, Mel Gibson was in Rockport filming “The Edge of Darkness” last September and Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds shot many scenes for “The Proposal” — due out in June — in Rockport and other locations throughout Cape Ann last spring.
Randall and Zubricki both said that they do not yet know the movie’s title, or much detail about it. However, Randall said the movie is about “a group of guys who are hanging out together at a summer cottage, and they play basketball and baseball. I assume it’s a comedy, because Adam Sandler’s in it.”
A spokewoman for Happy Madison Productions, which was founded by Adam Sandler and is affiliated with Lakefront Productions Inc., said she could not comment on the movie. The Internet Movie Database (IMDB.com) is reporting that an Adam Sandler project due for a “summer start date” also includes Chris Rock, David Spade, Kevin James and Rob Schneider, but that has not been confirmed.
Lakefront Productions Inc. will turn Grove Cottage into a movie set and will have “exclusive rights to Centennial Grove during the production of the film,” said Randall.
Town officials said selectmen will be contacting any groups that will be displaced by filming to help them find alternative facilities. Randall said that the summer recreation program and teams that use the baseball fields are likely to be impacted by this. The town’s statement also said that Lakefront Productions Inc. will be providing “support and donations for all those affected.” According to the agreement, this includes $6,000 to relocate the Essex MusicFest and $7,000 to relocate seven other Centennial Grove users. The production company will also be donating $3,000 to the Essex Youth Commission, $1,000 to the Essex Council on Aging, and $25,000 to Manchester Essex Little League.
The agreement also specifies that the production company must return the property to the town “in as good condition as when received.”
“It’s a positive benefit to the town of Essex,” Randall said. “A little Hollywood stimulus.”
Robert Cann can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org