CBS’s new show, The 2-2, blocks off street parking in Washington Heights for a recent location shoot. Generous incentives from both the state and city are bringing more productions to the city than ever.
For a week last May, Marcelo Duek, owner of Boca Grande, an interior design and furnishings store, stared out of his two-story-high storefront windows at the double-decker, 1,150-square-foot trailer parked outside. There was nothing else to see; the trailer blocked the entire view out of the store – and any passing member of the public’s view in. Duek’s SoHo neighborhood was the set of Men in Black III, and the trailer housed star Will Smith’s personal gym. “A $500,000 tractor trailer so Will Smith can pump muscles before a shoot,” Duek scoffs.
Duek estimates that between the trailer blocking his storefront and the mass of people and film equipment, he lost 80 percent of his business the week Men in Black III took over an eight-block radius of the neighborhood. He says he never received any compensation from the production or the city.
But Duek also sees the benefit of local shoots. “I do like the filming – it employs a lot of people I know,” Duek says. It also helps Duek’s business occasionally, as Boca Grande makes props for some productions.
And there are plenty of local productions these days to make those props for, as New York isn’t ready to end its film incentive programs any time soon. Public funds are used to lure film and television productions here to create a permanent large-scale industry the city’s film office credits with adding $5 billion a year to the city’s economy and 100,000 jobs – though other estimates say the true value is much lower. Incentives range from free ads in city bus stops to a 30 percent credit of a production’s in-state budget. For a blockbuster such as Men in Black III, that can be worth tens of millions of dollars.