With nine movies in ’07, no need to say please come to Boston

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Boston is fast becoming Hollywood Northeast.

Nicholas Paleologos, executive director of the Massachusetts Film Office, noted that 2006's "The Departed" was set in the Bay State and more than half of the film was shot on location, but only about $6 million of its total budget was spent in Massachusetts, with a larger amount of the location work going to New York.

"Fast-forward 24 months: 'The Pink Panther 2' had nothing to do with Massachusetts and not a single scene takes place in Massachusetts -- but Massachusetts got the lion's share of the location spending," he said.

In large part, this trend can be attributed to an aggressive tax incentive plan that was revised this year so that productions that drop more than $50,000 in Massachusetts receive a 25% rebate on everything it spends in the state.

Paleologos added that 2007 will close with nine major features having been shot in Massachusetts, pouring more than $125 million in direct expenditure into the local economy, up 150% from last year.

"Before (the incentives), those pictures would stay in the state for a week or two shooting exteriors and then shoot in another place where they could get a tax credit," he said.

Contributing to the program's success to some degree is the value of the U.S. dollar dropping below that of the Canadian dollar, prompting producers to look for location options in the States. And Boston has been met with enthusiasm.

"Everywhere you turn, the camera is a feast for your eyes," Lionsgate president of production Mike Paseornek said. "Boston has not ever been overused as a city for a setting in movies. You have a fresh look at something audiences haven't seen for quite a while."

Lionsgate recently lensed "My Best Friend's Girl," starring Dane Cook and Kate Hudson, in the Boston area. The production team took full advantage of the city, shooting along the Charles River and Commonwealth Avenue as well as at Fenway Park, Quincy Market and Boston Common.

"Boston was right for this movie, and the tax incentives made it possible to get the film done within the budget," Paseornek said.

Similarly, Rob Paris, one of the producers of "The Lonely Maiden," said: "We are filming downtown at a customs house. We shot in the North End and Paul Revere Mall. We've done great iconography to incorporate into the movie, which I think is going to give it a nice extra layer that previously we weren't going to have."

He added that the producers initially were looking to shoot in Vancouver, but the value of the U.S. dollar coupled with the tax incentives made Boston the more advantageous choice.

"Lonely Maiden" -- a co-production with Yari Film Group, William H. Macy's Dog Pond Prods., Paris Film and Revelations Entertainment that stars Morgan Freeman, Christopher Walken, Macy and Marcia Gay Harden -- was wrapping at press time.

Other productions lensed in Boston this year include Denzel Washington's "The Great Debaters," Columbia's "21," Picturehouse's Meg Ryan starrer "The Women" and West Wind Prods.' "Chatham."

In production are Richard Kelly's "The Box," starring Cameron Diaz, James Marsden and Frank Langella, which recently was picked up by Warner Bros., and Yari Film Group's "Real Men Cry," starring Mark Ruffalo, Ethan Hawke and Amanda Peet.

Paseornek is seeing the change. "Now when producers come to me, they are saying, 'By the way, we can shoot in Boston, and we've written the script for Boston.' We never heard that before," he said. "As long as the tax incentives stay in place, we will be returning to the city."

Some say this could prompt expansion in the city's production infrastructure. "The challenge for infrastructure is going to be convincing people that the industry is going to stay there and that this level of production will continue," Paseornek said.

Added Marc Frydman, one of the "Real Men Cry" producers: "If they keep the rebate going, I'm sure it is going to justify building a soundstage. Boston has a very big crew base, and it is very close to New York. If you are short for some reason, then you can always bring someone from New York. The film commission is really helpful, (as are) the police, the permit department. ... In Massachusetts, everybody seems to be getting behind it, and it's really great for the local economy."

Added Paleologos: "For people in Boston, it's another thing to be excited about this holiday season: The Red Sox, the Patriots ... and there are more movies shooting in the Boston area this year than any other year since we've been counting."
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