BOSTON — Actress Jayma Mays filmed mall hostage scenes here for two months before discovering Louis Boston, the upscale specialty retailer on Newbury Street.
“I never knew what was in here,” she said, sliding into a chair at the store’s cafe, Boston Public. “This is fantastic.”
Mays, who has appeared on ABC’s “Ugly Betty,” NBC’s “Heroes” and other TV shows, spent March through May shooting the role of a worker in a mall hair-extensions kiosk in the comedy “Paul Blart: Mall Cop,” starring Kevin James. In Boston, Mays’ co-workers splurged at Marc Jacobs, Envi, Calypso and Gretta Luxe, and the movie’s costume designer, Ellen Lutter, spent more than $100,000 locally.
Apparel stores have been among the major beneficiaries of a 25 percent film tax credit established by the state legislature in 2006, which has lured major movie projects and generated millions of dollars in sales around Greater Boston. Revenue generated by movie shoots in Massachusetts will jump to $380 million so far this year from $6 million in 2005. Including television commercials, there have been 88 projects and $550 million in film revenues since 2006.
“Any business is good business — we say bring it on,” said Barneys New York spokeswoman Dawn Brown. Barneys has assigned a staffer in Boston to assist costume designers.
Saks Fifth Avenue has taken a similar measure, said “Bride Wars” costume designer Karen Patch. Spending her way through “at least” $100,000, Patch hit Escada, Armani and Saks (mother-of-the-bride looks for Candice Bergen). At Louis Boston, she stocked up on cashmere sweaters and Loeffler Randall shoes for Anne Hathaway’s character.
For “Bride Wars,” a Cambridge storefront was transformed into a Vera Wang boutique where co-stars Kate Hudson and Hathaway shop, a bit of brand exposure that can only boost the actual Boston Vera Wang salon on Newbury Street. Wang made custom gowns for the film — a lace-and-tulle number for Hudson and blush taffeta for Hathaway.
“Mall Cop” worked with retailers on several scenes. For one, a fight between mall cop James and a portly woman in Victoria’s Secret, the innerwear chain flew in two visual merchandisers to ensure the brand was properly represented, said Carl Randal, the film’s brand integration consultant. Quiksilver donated Roxy and Quiksilver clothing for a scene in a surf shop.
This story first appeared in the June 18, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Seven films recently have been shot in or around the city, including “The Proposal,” starring Sandra Bullock, and “Ghost of Girlfriends Past,” featuring Jennifer Garner. Beyond direct spending, films will generate $1.3 billion in “ripple effect” revenues for the first half of this year, said Nick Paleologos, executive director of the Massachusetts Film Office.
The ripple effect comes from secondary spending and/or job creation — cast and crews housed for weeks in hotels, running tabs in local bars and swiping credit cards in shops.
Lutter estimated the dry cleaning and tailoring bill for “Mall Cop” was more than $10,000 weeks before the shoot ended.
Whether Boston stays a moviemaking hot spot is uncertain because of rising competition from states such as New York, Michigan and California offering similar — or more generous — rebates.
The movies are about the best form of global marketing for a city, said Larry Meehan, vice president of tourism for the Greater Boston Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“International productions are now beginning filming here,” he said, adding that the bureau plans promotions overseas as movies filmed in Boston are released next year. Among them is a remake of “The Women,” starring Meg Ryan, Annette Bening, Jada Pinkett Smith and Eva Mendes, and produced by Mick Jagger.
Until a few years ago, the city’s reputation as high-cost and hostile kept Hollywood away. “The Departed,” which won the 2006 Oscar for Best Picture, came only for a two-week shot of exteriors, despite being set entirely in South Boston.
Paleologos said no productions are booked after the Screen Actors Guild contract expires on June 30, raising the possibility of labor strife.
Although some citizen groups have complained that it is unfair for the state to single out an industry for tax rebates, lawmakers have been readying incentive-laden legislation that could pave the way for two soundstage proposals to start construction south of Boston. They would be used for commercials, voice-overs, postproduction and interior sets, and would allow the state to keep productions for longer periods.
Producer Bob Papazian of ISG Studios is spearheading a proposed $300 million, 30-acre complex of 10 to 15 soundstages at SouthField, a new development in Weymouth, Mass., 10 miles outside the city.
Another deal, Plymouth Rock Studios, proposed by a former Paramount Pictures executive, calls for a $500 million campus on 1,000 acres with 14 soundstages in Plymouth, Mass., about 40 miles south of Boston.
Papazian said part of Massachusetts’ strength is a technical, entrepreneurial community coming out of the universities and diverse locations packed into a small geographic area (seashore, farms, historic mill cities like Lowell, quaint suburbs and Boston).
Last year, “Pink Panther 2,” starring Steve Martin, used the Back Bay neighborhood to simulate Paris, while “The Proposal” has substituted seashore towns on Cape Ann, north of Boston, to mimic Alaska.
“The only reason they’re going up to Alaska at all is we don’t have a glacier,” said Angela Peri, owner of Boston Casting, who has been rounding up extras to play wedding guests, Inuits and Jersey mall shoppers. Her revenues are up 40 percent this year.
Even if production follows bigger tax credits elsewhere, movies — particularly the few that become iconic — have a way of generating business for years.
At Boston Movie tours — revenues spiked 30 percent this year, said operations manager Stephanie Costello — a nondescript building on Sleeper Street in South Boston has become a top-requested stop because of “The Departed.”
“They all want to see where Martin Sheen is pushed off the roof,” Costello said.