Suburbs are real stars of movies shot in W.Pa.
By Jason Cato
Published: Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012, 8:51 p.m.
Pittsburgh generally gets credit for major film productions shot in the region, but much of the work is actually done in the suburbs.
Community leaders say the financial benefits are difficult to calculate, but they are there.
“I know firsthand the energy, jobs and benefits (the film industry) brings to the region is stupendous,” said Braddock Mayor John Fetterman.
“Out of the Furnace,” an upcoming film starring Christian Bale and Forest Whitaker, was shot in and around Braddock in May, including at Carrie Furnace in Rankin.
“It was an incredibly positive experience,” Fetterman said. “The real benefit is that the film was shot in Braddock. (The story) actually took place in Braddock.”
“Foxcatcher,” a film about the 1986 slaying of Olympic gold-medal wrestler Dave Schultz by John DuPont, heir to the DuPont chemical fortune, started filming in McKeesport, Sewickley Heights and Ligonier in October.
Producers rented Connoquenessing Methodist Church for staging and to serve meals to the cast and crew while the movie filmed at nearby VicNor Farms.
“Being shot around here, it will have an impact for sure” both in money spent locally and residents being excited about the film, said the Rev. Kurtis Knobel, the church's pastor.
“They've been very nice and cooperative and fun to be around,” he said of the movie participants. Annapurna Pictures and Columbia Pictures are producing “Foxcatcher,” which is expected to be released next fall by Sony Pictures Entertainment.
Film projects also benefit communities in subtle ways.
Crews from “Out of the Furnace,” the Nickelodeon TV show “Supah Ninjas” and the film “One for the Money” donated wardrobes to the Braddock Free Store. The store, established in October on Braddock Avenue, distributes surplus, new items from retailers to people in need, mostly to people in Braddock's 15104 ZIP code.
Dawn Keezer, president of the Pittsburgh Film Office, Downtown, said nearly $700 million in projects have come to the 10-county region since the office opened in 1990, nearly half of them in the past three years. The figure includes expenditures such as crew salaries, rentals, hotels and food. The numbers are provided to the state by production companies, which can receive tax credits for working in Pennsylvania.
“Our clients are based all over the region,” she said, adding that figures are not broken down by county or municipality. “We sell Southwestern Pennsylvania.”
Movies pumped more than $100 million into the region in each of the past three years, Keezer said, adding that “2012 should be a great year, too.”
Mt. Lebanon enjoyed months in the spotlight in 2010 when portions of “Abduction” were filmed there and star Taylor Lautner of “Twilight” fame stayed in the South Hills community.
The Virginia Manor neighborhood starred as a filming location and Lautner's temporary residence, while the crew rented space at a local church. Several restaurants enjoyed extra business, said Municipal Manager Steve Feller.
The production reimbursed the Mt. Lebanon Police Department $56,500, including $34,000 for the shoot and $22,500 for security at Lautner's residence, Feller said.
“There weren't any costs for us,” he said. “In general, though, it made the community feel good.”
Remnants of movies past still hang inside the municipality's ice center, including photographs from the 1994 “Oksana Baiul Story” about the Olympic skater and a mural from a movie about The Temptations, Feller said.
“It's a local community-pride impact more than an economic impact,” he said.
Westmoreland County resident Tom Mizikar agreed.
He and his wife, Christen, rented their Beechwood cottage in Ligonier for a week to crew members working on “Foxcatcher,” bringing in $745 when the three-bedroom rental likely would have sat empty.
“I realize it wasn't Steve Carell or the ‘Sexiest Man Alive' staying in our house, but the fact is it was great. We were tickled to have business like this and to be a tiny part of it,” Mizikar said.
Mizikar said the opportunity to show off the Laurel Highlands and bring exposure to the area was the biggest reward.
“The economic impact is certainly nice,” he said. “But the bigger takeaway for me was having all these people here to see Ligonier at a beautiful time.
“If they come back to visit, that will be the most important economic impact for me.”
Jason Cato is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7936 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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