City Council eyes Boston studio

Hearing to address need for movie production stage

By Donna Goodison
Boston Sunday Herald
October 25, 2009

The City Council is stepping up efforts to land a movie production studio in Boston. Councilors Stephen Murphy and Bill Linehan want the city to reap more benefits from the state’s growing movie industry business that’s so far generated an estimated $700 million in spending since state tax incentives took effect in 2006.

They’ve ordered a hearing tomorrow to discuss the merits and feasibility of having a movie studio built within city limits, as plans for studios in Weymouth and Plymouth proceed.

“Just in the past few weeks, we had three or four major films shooting in one section of the city or another,” Murphy said. “We think it would be good to have studio closer to where the filming is going to occur, and we’d like to have something here within the city.”

Those films include the 20th Century Fox thriller “Knight & Day” with Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz, and Ben Affleck’s “The Town,” starring Affleck and Jon Hamm of AMC’s “Mad Men.”

Boston real estate developer Tim Pappas of Pappas Enterprises Inc. already has been eyeing plans to build movie soundstages in South Boston, reportedly on land off Summer Street past the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center.

But Pappas, who has a film degree from New York University, declined comment on the project.

“When our plans become public, then we’ll give all the details,” he said.

Murphy believes a South Boston location would work for the film industry and the city’s needs to create jobs.

“There’s plenty of land in that emerging neighborhood over on the waterfront,” he said.

Movies shooting in Greater Boston are now adapting large empty warehouse spaces as temporary soundstages, said Nick Paleologos, executive director of the Massachusetts Film Office.

“Most of the larger movies that have been shooting in Boston that were looking for soundstage space landed at warehouses in Chelsea and Hyde Park when they were available,” he said.

If a movie studio complex is built in Boston, it wouldn’t necessarily have an adverse impact on those already in the works in Weymouth and Plymouth, according to Paleologos. Just take Los Angeles as an example, he said.

“There’s probably 300 or 400 soundstages all over Los Angeles County,” he said. “In Massachusetts, if all the soundstages proposed actually get built, you’re talking about 25 maybe.”

Plymouth Rock Studios last month said it secured a $550 million construction loan for its proposed $1 billion movie, TV and digital studio campus in Plymouth. Slated for completion in 2012, it will include 14 soundstages and 10 acres of exterior sets.

International Studio Group also plans to build a $147 million, 12-stage movie studio on 30 acres at the former South Weymouth Naval Air Station.

Movie producers prefer using soundstages close to where their principal photography is taking place, Paleologos said. And while much filming has been taking place in Boston, productions also have been shooting across the state – in Worcester, Gloucester, Rockport, Taunton, Medfield, Deerfield and Northampton.

“They’re all over the place,” Paleologos said. “If you’re shooting on the South Shore, it would be nice to have a soundstage on the South Shore. If you’re shooting in Boston, it would be nice to have some stages there.”

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