Movie gives Lowell economy a fighting chance

By Rachel R. Briere
Lowell Sun
July 19, 2009

LOWELL — Show business is big business for local companies. Restaurants, security firms, parking garages, rental outfits and hotels are just some reaping the benefits of Hollywood.

For the next several weeks, film crews, actors and the entourages are in Lowell to shoot scenes for The Fighter. The Paramount Pictures project is set in Lowell and follows the epic rise of “Irish” Micky Ward in the boxing ring. Dorchester native Mark Wahlberg portrays the hometown hero and actor Christian Bale plays opposite Wahlberg as Ward’s half brother and trainer Dicky Eklund.

Actresses Melissa Leo and Amy Adams also star in the movie set to be released in 2011 as the brawling brothers’ mother, Alice Ward, and Ward’s girlfriend, Charlene.

“I can tell you this is an industry that we need to continue working with,” said Deb Belanger, executive director of the Greater Merrimack Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Belanger says early estimates are The Fighter production will pump a little more than $2 million into the local economy. That figure includes the 1,700 hotel rooms reserved, location leases, food, security, signage, office space and construction materials.

“The money is well needed during this economy, with it being in a slump that is. It’s keeping people employed right now,” she said.

Frank Elliott, CEO of National Security, a Lowell firm that was hired to provide security on the set of the film, 35 to 40 additional employees were hired just for this project.

“It puts people to work and gives them opportunity to stay employed,” he explained.

The summer is otherwise a slow period for the 27-year-old security company, as with the Tsongas Arena. The downtown Lowell venue was rented out for three days last week to recreate key boxing matches in Ward’s career.

“It’s definitely making the arena some money,” said General Manager Craig Gates. “I also noticed when the crew has some down time in between takes they are frequenting downtown businesses.”

While filming was taking place inside the downtown concert venue, the Ayotte Garage was filled with cars from extras traveling to Lowell to experience their 15 minutes of fame. The parking facility adjacent to the arena was rented out during a time when there is barely any revenue from parking generated from that particular property. Lowell High School staff and students use the Ayotte Garage as their main parking lot. With school on summer break, it usually sits empty until September.

“It’s great for us,” said Chuck Carney, parking director for the city.

Michael Lenzi, owner of Lenzi’s Catering in Dracut, was tapped by The Fighter production staff to provide tables and staging for the set. As the production moves forward there may be requests for tents and other items he said.

“I think this is tremendously exciting,” said Lenzi, a Lowell city councilor. “It’s a good thing for Massachusetts and Lowell.”

“I’m a big supporter of the tax incentives the state has implemented,” Belanger added. “Because, look at it — it’s working.”

For more on the filming of “The Fighter,” visit:

http://www.lowellsun.com/thefighter

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