By Vicki-Ann Downing
September 5, 2009
BRIDGEWATER — Even Ethan Hunt, the secret agent played by Tom Cruise in the “Mission: Impossible” movie series, might find it a challenge to solve the financial woes facing the town of Bridgewater these days.
But when the Hollywood actor steps onto a cornfield off Curve Street later this month to begin filming a new movie, “Wichita,” with co-star Cameron Diaz, a lot of people are going to feel good anyway.
Having famous people come to town is fun, as Taunton residents discovered last year when Leonardo DiCaprio, Ben Kingsley and Martin Scorcese filmed “Shutter Island,” originally titled “Ashecliffe,” at Whittenton Mills. That movie is due out in February.
And it’s good for business, too, according to the state Department of Revenue. Attracted by a tax credit of 25 percent on qualifying expenses and an exemption from the state sales tax, movie companies have been coming to the state in increasing numbers since 2006.
It’s paying off, according to the DOR, which estimates that 13 movie projects filmed in 2008 resulted in $452 million in direct spending in Massachusetts — and not just in Boston, either.
“One of the best things, and perhaps unexpected things, that happened as a result of the film business boom, since the governor and the Legislature lifted the cap on the tax credit back in 2007, has been the migration of business outside greater Boston,” said Nick Paleologos, executive director of the Massachusetts Film Office.
“When you look around and ask yourself, ‘Where is Hollywood spending its money,’ it’s Worcester, Gloucester, Woburn, Taunton, Medfield, Hull. It’s really been great,” said Paleologos. Paleologos said filmmakers who originally came to Boston to make their movies were “tripping over themselves” in the city’s neighborhoods, so they began looking around and discovering “film-friendly communities” outside Boston.
“They find labor, materials, infrastructure,” said Paleologos. “If they can get their creative needs met, they love coming to Massachusetts.”
Two proposals for sound stages that would further serve the movie industry are moving through the local permitting process south of Boston. Plymouth Rock Studios in Plymouth would be a $282 million production complex with 14 sound stages, two back lots and a pair of production buildings. It would feature a performing arts school, vocational classrooms, cultural and visitors centers and a screening theater.
International Studio Corp. would be located on 30 acres of the former South Weymouth Naval Air Station. The $147-million, 600,000-square-foot motion picture complex would be able to produce television shows and video games as well as movies. “If they get up and running, it will generate more movies and TV series,” said Paleologos. “We don’t have state-of-the-art sound stages in Massachusetts. If one or two are built, we’ll go from a seasonal business to a year-round business, and be able to produce the kinds of movies that require these kinds of facilities — those with computer-animated special effects.”
Meanwhile, the Bridgewater movie, tentatively titled “Wichita,” will be “the biggest we’ve ever had by whatever means you measure,” said Paleologos. “The amount of money they will be spending in the state is very large, as you would expect in a Tom Cruise movie,” Paleologos said. “It’s going to be a big, challenging film for us to host with lots of big action scenes.”
The movie is described as “an action-oriented romantic comedy.”
Diaz will play an “upbeat Midwestern woman” who goes on a blind date with Cruise, a federal agent. She is pulled into “a violent world journey to protect a powerful battery that holds the key to an infinite power source,” according to a description on the movie’s Web site.
The Boeing 727 carrying Cruise and Diaz will seem to crash into the 263-acre Bridgewater field, though it is actually arriving in three separate pieces next Friday. Filming is scheduled from 3 p.m. to 6 a.m. Sept. 24 and 25. Fireworks will simulate the plane crash.
Other parts of the movie — chase scenes, cars overturning — will be shot elsewhere, including Woburn and Boston. “Congratulations. We’re happier than heck that it’s happening there for you guys,” said Paleologos of Bridgewater.
Vicki-Ann Downing can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org