Entertainment Industry

Category: production

On Location: New Santa Fe Studios beckons filmmakers


A longstanding artists community and celebrity vacation destination, Santa Fe has a new rising star -- one it hopes will help the state regain its footing as a leading production destination for filmmakers.

This week, Santa Fe Studios, a nearly $30-million production facility in the southeast part of the mountain town, will open for business. Built in line with the city’s traditional pueblo architectural style, the 65-acre studio includes two 19,275-square-foot soundstages with lush offices and dressing rooms, access to electric cars and ultra-high-speed broadband technology.

Financed partly by a $10-million economic development grant from the state, the facility will be New Mexico’s fifth studio and the second largest after Albuquerque Studios, which has eight soundstages and has been home to dozens of feature film and television productions including Marvel Studios’ “The Avengers” and four seasons of AMC’s “Breaking Bad.”

While the investment in a new studio less than 80 miles from the Albuquerque appears to be a gamble, its owners -- longtime producing and directing brothers Lance and Conrad Hool, along with Lance’s son Jason -- tout the smaller-city facility as the boutique alternative for filmmakers looking to shoot in the state.

“New Mexico now has a first-class studio,” said Lance Hool, producer of such movies as "Man on Fire" and "Flipper." "This will help stabilize the industry and with the backing of the administration will result in more activity."

One of the pioneers of state-implemented film incentives, New Mexico’s 25% tax rebate, combined with its proximity to Los Angeles, mild weather, experienced crew and aggressive state film office, proved to be a gold mine for the state, resulting in $275 million in annual direct film spending at its peak in fiscal year 2008. Films shot in New Mexico include “Transformers,” “Terminator Salvation” and, most recently, “The Last Stand” starring Arnold Schwarzenegger.  

The future of the state’s film industry was thrown into question earlier this year when New Mexico became the latest of several states, including Michigan, to consider cutting its film subsidies. Gov. Susana Martinez had attempted to reduce rebates to 15% but lawmakers ultimately reached a compromise to keep the incentive but implemented a rolling annual cap of $50 million.

Although the cap is well below the tax credits approved in the last two years -- $65.9 million in 2010 and $76.4 million in 2009 -- New Mexico Film Office Director Nick Maniatis said the new limit should not hinder the state’s ability to attract future productions, as applications for qualifying projects filed after the limit was reached would fall into queue for payment the next year.

“We saw a fallback when the incentive was in question, but we’re hoping that by the spring we’ll be back to where we were,” Maniatis said.

The total value of approved tax credits has been on the decline for the last two years, with $54.6 million in the fiscal year that ended June 30, compared with $65.9 million in the same period a year prior and $76.4 million in fiscal 2009, according to the New Mexico Film Office.

Despite this decline, Hool is confident about the future of the movie industry in the state after meeting with Martinez earlier this week. “She’s 100% behind the film business,” Hool said.

Hool says Santa Fe Studios has received substantial interest from filmmakers considering shooting at the new facility. “We have several features and television shows booked.”

Although Hool would not confirm which productions were heading toward the studio, he said Disney’s much-publicized “The Lone Ranger,” starring Johnny Depp, was among the possibilities. Albuquerque Studios is expected to be the main base for "The Lone Ranger" but Santa Fe is negotiating to have some of the film shot at its new studio, said one person familiar with the matter. Production of "Lone Ranger" halted in August in a dispute over the film's budget, which is more than $200 million, but is scheduled to resume early next year.

Jon Hendry, business agent for Local 480 of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, which represents crew members in New Mexico, is optimistic about the state’s ability to bounce back from the uncertainty of the last few months and says Santa Fe Studios will play into that recovery.

“Albuquerque Studios was transformative for New Mexico,” Hendry said. “I have no reason to believe Santa Fe Studios won’t be able to accomplish the same thing."

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-- Dima Alzayat

Photo: Santa Fe Studios in Santa Fe, N.M. Credit: Santa Fe Studios

On Location: 'The Frozen Ground' heats up filming in Alaska

alaska frozen ground cusack

Apart from hosting shows such as Discovery Channel's "Deadliest Catch" and History Channel's "Ice Road Truckers," Alaska isn't exactly a hotbed for film production.

But after the state implemented generous film incentives in 2009, Hollywood has begun to warm up to the Last Frontier, sending several new feature film productions its way.

“The Frozen Ground,” based on the real-life 1980s Alaskan hunt for serial killer Robert Hansen, became the most recent Hollywood feature to shoot in Alaska when cameras started rolling in Anchorage this week.

The film will be directed by Scott Walker, who also wrote the script, and will star John Cusack as Hansen and Nicholas Cage as the Alaska state trooper who tracked Hansen down. Emmett/Furla, Amber Entertainment and rapper 50 Cent, who will play a pimp in the film, are producing with Lionsgate and Grindstone Entertainment distributing the picture.

The six-week production will film in and around the suburb where Hansen lived in the northeast part of Anchorage as well as in neighboring mountains where the killer took his victims, said the film’s producer, Randall Emmett.

The project sought to stay true to the actual events of the story by filming in Alaska but the decision to film in the distant state was ultimately a financial one. Emmett had considered splitting the production between Michigan and Louisiana, where the producer has taken advantage of filming incentive programs for past productions.

“But when we did the numbers, it made more sense to shoot in Alaska,” Emmett said, “We’re now talking about doing other films up there.”

Filming future projects in Alaska, said the producer, would offset the hefty cost of shipping equipment and getting crews to the state. The budget for “The Frozen Ground” is in the $20 million to $30 million range, Emmett said.

As several other states’ film incentive programs are being scaled back or eliminated altogether, Alaska’s tax rebate is expected to expand, according to Dave Worrell, development specialist at the Alaska Film Office. The $100-million program offers a 30% base credit toward qualified production expenses. Additional incentives for hiring Alaskans, filming in rural areas or filming in winter can increase the possible credit to 44%.

Current incentives are set to expire in 2013, but a bill that would extend the program until 2023 and add an extra $200 million has unanimously passed the Alaska Senate and is awaiting approval from the state’s House Finance Committee, which will vote on the bill next year.

According to Worrell and the Alaska Film Office’s 2011 Report to the Legislature, 13 feature films pre-qualified for tax credits in the state’s 2011 fiscal year, compared with just one in fiscal 2009, including Universal's "Big Miracle," starring Drew Barrymore, which was filmed in Alaska last year and is set for a February release.

Although crews remain scarce and infrastructure is lacking, Worrell said resources are steadily improving. For example, Evergreen Films, one of the production companies behind the $65-million “Walking with Dinosaurs 3D," which is currently filming in Alaska, has already built a post-production facility in Anchorage that will include a 50-foot-by-50-foot green screen used to simulate backgrounds.

“We are seeing folks who grew up in Alaska and those who left coming back home to work,"Worrell said.

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-- Dima Alzayat

Photo: Valdez, Alaska. Credit: State of Alaska Tourism Office

Art Directors Guild makes designs on 'previs' workers

The Art Directors Guild is stepping up its efforts to extend union benefits to the men and women who create computerized images that enable film and TV directors to previsualize their movies before production starts.

The guild this week launched a new informational website (www.directactionartist.com) called Artists for Direct Action to provide so-called previs artists with information on how organize their workplaces and join the Art Directors Guild. The guild, Local 800 of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, has nearly 2,000 members and represents illustrators, matte artists, set designers and model markers.Tom-Walsh art directors guild

"It's a natural fit for previs talents to be represented by the Art Directors Guild,'' ADG President Tom Walsh said. "Our new site will let them know what they can do to claim for themselves the rights all other ADG members currently enjoy."

Walsh said the guild is seeking to bring previs artists into the union at a time when such workers have come to play an increasingly important role in productions, especially for big-budget features. Yet, unlike many of their peers in the art department, many of these workers do not belong to a union.

"We want them to have access to health and welfare benefits and collective bargaining rights,'' Walsh said. "Right now, they don't have any of that."

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-- Richard Verrier

Photo: Tom Walsh, president of the Art Directors Guild. Credit: Tom Walsh.

Don Browne, president of NBCUniversal's Telemundo network, retires

Telemundo President Don Browne is stepping down, clearing the way for his new bosses at NBCUniversal to make sweeping changes to the Spanish-language television operation.

Browne, who turns 68 next month, plans to leave the company June 3 -- the eight anniversary of his arrival at Telemundo after a distinguished career in NBC News. Browne joined NBC in 1979 as NBC News' Miami bureau chief. He eventually became a top executive within NBC News, and later served as general manager of WTVJ, NBC's owned-and-operated station in Miami.

Don Browne NBCUniversal said it would announce a new Telemundo president "in the coming months."

The architect of Telemundo's entry into the business of original programming, Browne wanted to end the network's reliance on foreign studios for its prime-time shows.  Browne oversaw the construction of a small TV production center in Hialeah, Fla., just outside of Miami. In recent months, the network has grown its ratings on the strength of its original telenovela, "La Reina del Sur."

However, despite investing hundreds of millions of dollars in original programming over the years, the NBCUniversal-owned Spanish-language network has struggled to make headway in the market. It is dwarfed by its more potent rival, Univision Communications Inc., which obtains most of its popular prime-time soap operas, or telenovelas, from its Mexican programming partner, Grupo Televisa.  Univision has a substantial advantage because its telenovelas -- which have already played on TV in Mexico --  are cheaper to acquire and have a track record. Univision schedules the programs that generated big ratings in Mexico and appeal to the large Mexican American population in the U.S.

When Comcast Corp. took control of NBCUniversal in January, Comcast Chief Executive Brian Roberts and NBCUniversal's new chief, Steve Burke, said they wanted Telemundo to produce stronger ratings and, thus, more revenue for the company.

Browne was assigned a new supervisor, Lauren Zalaznick, who is dramatically different from the suit-and-tie bosses that Browne had before. Instead of giving Browne autonomy to run his business, Zalaznick was determined to get involved, even taking Spanish lessons and spending days immersing herself in Telemundo's operations in South Florida and Los Angeles.

Since 2005, Browne has been responsible for all of Telemundo's business and programming functions, including running Telemundo's 14 owned-and-operated television stations, including KVEA-TV Channel 52 in Los Angeles. He also managed Telemundo's news and sports operations and its youth-oriented cable channel, mun2.

NBCUniversal said Browne was "an early and fervent supporter of NBC's investment in Spanish-language television and played a key role in the company's 2001 acquisition of Telemundo."

"Don Browne has had an outstanding career as a broadcaster and executive, from his years as a bureau chief and executive vice president of NBC News to his tenure most recently at Telemundo," Burke said in a statement Tuesday announcing Browne's retirement.  "We are grateful for what he has accomplished."

-- Meg James

Photo: Don Browne. Credit: Telemundo / NBCUniversal

 

On location: Puerto Rico expands film tax credits in bid for larger Hollywood role

Losers 
With its lush mountains, tropical rain forest and sugar-white beaches, Puerto Rico has long prided itself as a “paradise of locations” for filmmaking.

But the U.S. territory has never been ranked in the top tier of filming destinations, in part because it had only a small pool of money allocated for its tax-credit program. That could change now that the Caribbean archipelago wants to grab a larger share of Hollywood’s production pie.

Last week, Puerto Rico Gov. Luis G. Fortuño signed into law a new package of film incentives aimed at making his commonwealth competitive with some of the top production hubs in the U.S.

The new law broadens the existing 40% production tax credit to include TV programs and documentaries, and for the first time allows producers to claim a 20% tax credit for hiring non-residents, including salaries of actors. Additionally, the new law lifts the annual cap in tax credits to a maximum of $350 million from a paltry $15 million. It also provides a 25% tax credit toward the development and expansion of studios, post-production houses and other service companies that are critical to building a local film industry.

While Puerto Rico has a number of smaller soundstages, it lacks the infrastructure of more established Puerto rico film locations such as Louisiana, the United Kingdom and New Zealand, limiting its appeal to filmmakers.

Puerto Rico’s new legislation comes after a recent announcement by neighboring Dominican Republican to introduce a 25% film tax credit. And, it comes at a time when several U.S. states, notably New Mexico and Michigan, have announced plans to significantly scale back their film incentives to balance their budgets.

“We look at the film industry as an engine of economic development,’’ said José Ramón Pérez-Riera, Puerto Rico’s secretary of economic development and commerce, which oversees the film program.  “With this new law, I think we can compete favorably with any jurisdiction.”

Pérez-Riera said the timing of the new tax-credit law, which has been in the works for six months, was purely coincidental with rollbacks in some states.

“I can’t say we’re doing this because other states are cutting back, but the timing works quite nicely for us,’’ he said. “As other states are cutting back we’re stepping up so we can capture a substantial portion of the market for some of these high-budget films.”

Joe Chianese, senior vice president of Burbank-based Entertainment Partners, which specializes in providing production services, said the new incentives will make Puerto Rico competitive with leading film states such as Louisiana and Georgia.

 “It’s a great move for them,’’ he said. “It definitely raises the stakes.”

Puerto Rico has managed to lure dozens of productions over the last decade thanks to its diverse and tropical terrain. The commonwealth has stood in for Cuba in the USA Network TV show “Royal Pains”; Bolivia in the Warner Bros. action movie “The Losers”;  Brazil in the upcoming Universal Pictures’ sequel “Fast Five”; and even Kuwait and Iraq in “The Men Who Stare at Goats,” the independent film starring George Clooney.

And the government would like to see Hollywood crews hang around for a bit longer to fuel the local economy. For example, Walt Disney Pictures’ “Pirates of the Caribbean: on Stranger Tides” shot only a few days in Ft. San Cristobal in Old San Juan and in Palominito, an isolated island on the east coast of Puerto Rico.

“We wanted to bring the entire production here," Pérez-Riera said, “but we were competing with Hawaii.”

-Richard Verrier

Photo: Explosion scene in financial district of San Juan for the Warner Bros. movie "The Losers," which was filmed in Puerto Rico. Credit: Puerto Rico Film Commission

 

 

On Location: Michigan to Hollywood -- 'Get off my lawn'

CLINT

Like the Clint Eastwood character in the Detroit-area-set movie "Gran Torino," the new governor of Michigan is telling Hollywood to get off his lawn.

Rick Snyder, a Republican who was elected governor of the Great Lakes State on a platform to curb spending, wants to gut Michigan's film tax credit program, one of the most generous in the country. In his $45-billion budget plan, unveiled Thursday, Snyder proposed reducing or eliminating various state tax credits, including those awarded for filming.

If approved by the state's legislature, the move would be a blow to Hollywood, which has flocked to Michigan in recent years to take advantage of the generous tax break. Snyder has proposed setting aside a meager $25 million for film incentives from a jobs fund. In 2010, Michigan approved more than $100 million in film tax credits.

Since offering a film tax credit of up to 42% in 2008, the state has attracted more than 100 movie and TV productions, including “Transformers 3” and the new ABC cop drama “Detroit 1-8-7.”

Spending on film productions in the state has mushroomed to $224 million in 2009 from $2 million in 2007, according to the Michigan Film Office.

“The Michigan Film Office remains open for business and will continue our work to grow Michigan’s film industry,'' Michelle Begnoche, a spokeswoman for Michigan Film Office, said in a statement. "Under the governor’s proposed budget, $25 million would be allocated for film incentives beginning in 2012. We will work within this framework to make our film incentives more Michigan friendly for homegrown businesses and entrepreneurs while continuing to attract key projects to the state.”

Scrapping the current film tax credit, however, will make it hard for Michigan to stay competitive, said Jeff Begun, a partner in the Incentives Office, which advises companies on film tax credits. "Michigan is going to be relegated to a minor role in the film industry," he said.

Although wildly popular with filmmakers, Michigan's film program has come under fire as of late. A report by the Michigan Senate's Fiscal Agency last year concluded that nearly half of the expenditures that qualified for the state's media production credits did not affect the Michigan economy.

While most states have retained their film tax credit programs, and in some cases actually increased them, film subsidies are drawing more scrutiny as states grapple with massive budget deficits.

New Mexico's newly elected Gov. Susana Martinez recently proposed reducing the state's film tax credit to 15% from 25% as part of a plan to balance the state's budget.

Ohio Film Office Director Jeremy Henthorn was asked to resign last month as new Republican Gov. John Kasich took office. Iowa's new Gov. Terry Branstad plans to dismantle the state's incentives in the wake of a scandal there. Nick Paleologos, head of the Massachusetts Film Office, also recently resigned in a cost-cutting move.

-- Richard Verrier

Photo: Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino. Credit: Anthony Michael Rivetti/Warner Bros.

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On Location: Porn film studio among top 10 busiest sites in L.A. for production

Penthouse 
The porn industry, like the rest of Hollywood, has been buffeted by the economic downturn, the falloff in DVD sales and a cornucopia of free content on the Internet.

Still, for better or worse, the adult entertainment business remains alive and well in the San Fernando Valley, where thousands of films are shot every year in warehouses and private homes.

One of the 10 busiest sites for on-location filming in Los Angeles last year was a two-story industrial building in Chatsworth operated by Penthouse Studios, a spinoff of the adult magazine. Pornchart

The 35,000-square-foot studio was used for 17 untitled projects and generated 101 production days in 2010. That's nearly one-third the total production days hosted last year at Griffith Park, the most popular spot for on-location filming, according to the survey from FilmL.A. Inc., the nonprofit group that handles film permits for the city and much of the county.

"It's a good spot because they have three big hangars over there and they are constantly changing their sets,'' said a location manager who has frequently worked at the studio and who also asked not be named because of the potential effect on his career working on mainstream films.

Most of the films shot in Chatsworth were produced by Penthouse-owned studio Video Bliss. Kelly Holland, president of Penthouse Studios, declined to comment, saying the company is in a quiet period pending a planned stock offering by its owner, FriendFinder Networks, a Boca Raton, Fla., company that operates various adult social networking and dating sites.

About 6,000 adult films are shot each year, with the majority of them in the San Fernando Valley, according to industry estimates. The films mostly fly under the radar, but occasionally they stir controversy. In 2006, residents in an Encino neighborhood bitterly complained to city officials about an onslaught of porn filming in their enclave, including one during the Easter holiday.

Adult entertainment boomed after the advent of home video in the 1980s. But declining DVD sales and the availability of free porn on the Internet has battered the local industry: The number of major porn producers in L.A. has fallen to about 30, down from approximately 50 three years ago, said Alec Helmy, president and publisher of XBiz, which bills itself as the Variety of the adult entertainment industry.

“The industry is struggling in a big way, but as far as the local market goes, we still get tons of DVDs dropped off at our office every day,” Helmy said.

Porn production accounts for less than 5% of all film permits, but FilmL.A. does not track the industry's overall activity. A decade ago, local economists estimated that the porn industry in the San Fernando Valley generated 10,000 to 20,000 jobs annually and had $4 billion in annual sales. More recent figures, however, aren't available, perhaps because civic leaders aren't eager to tout an industry many in the public consider unsavory.

"A lot of people are uncomfortable with the subject, even though it appears they have lots of customers,” said Nancy Sidhu, chief economist with the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp.

-- Richard Verrier

Photo:  Industrial building in Chatsworth operated by Penthouse-owned studio Video Bliss. The studio was the ninth busiest site for on-location filming in 2010. Credit: Gary Friedman/Los Angeles Times.

 

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On-location film production flat last week in L.A.

Feb.chart On-location film production was as flat as Wilshire Boulevard last week, with overall production days down 1% compared with the same period a year ago, according to FilmLA Inc., the nonprofit film permitting group.

One production day is defined as a single crew's permission to film at a single location in a 24-hour period.

Features generated 106 production days, down 5% from the same week in 2010. Major films currently shooting on location in L.A. include "Welcome to People," a DreamWorks drama starring Chris Pine, Olivia Wilde and Michelle Pfeiffer; and Twentieth Century Fox's sci-fi thriller "NOW" with Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried and the fourth installment of the "Spider-Man" series from Sony Pictures.

Pine Commercial activity, which began to slow in the fourth quarter, was also down 5% with 174 production days, while TV production was up slightly at 1% with 425 days. 

Local TV production has been fueled by such shows as NBC's drama "The Event," and FX's crime series "Justified" and the ABC crime drama "Castle."

Although commercial production is up nationwide as advertisers spend more as a result of the improved economy, L.A.'s share of commercial filming has declined in recent years as other states such as New Mexico, New York and Illinois grab more of the business.

For more details on what's filming where, see the accompanying chart.

 -- Richard Verrier

Photo: Chris Pine is stars in the DreamWorks movie "Welcome to People," which is currently filming in L.A. Credit: Kevin Winter / Getty Images
 
 

 

On Location: Film survey ranks Griffith Park, downtown warehouse and former hospital among busiest sites in 2010

59146263
When producers of the ABC game show “Downfall” needed a building from which to hurl dishwashers, gumball machines and other “prizes,” they settled on a warehouse on the east side of downtown Los Angeles.

The six-story building on Terminal Street, near the corner of 7th and Alameda streets, was among the most popular on-location filming sites in the region in 2010, along with a long-shuttered hospital in Boyle Heights and a faux Route 66 pit stop on the edge of the Mojave Desert, according to a recent survey by the nonprofit group FilmL.A. Inc., which handles film permits for location filming in city of L.A. and much of L.A. County. The data track filming done outside the major studios on city streets and on soundstages that aren’t certified by the fire department.

Topping the list of the year’s 10 most popular sites was Griffith Park, a favorite of location scouts because of its diverse terrain that spans more than 4,210 acres, drawing shoots from such TV shows as CBS’ “Criminal Minds” and “NCIS: Los Angeles.”

LocationMore surprising was No. 2 on the list: the six-story building on Terminal Street, a former manufacturing facility built in 1913 that is housed in the same complex as clothing designer American Apparel Inc.

Now called Central City Studio, the building has been remodeled with various stage sets. Along with a 10,000-square-foot warehouse, it includes a “fully dressed” hospital, complete with emergency room and morgue.

Last year, the studio catered heavily to low-budget cable shows, including multiple episodes of the Spike TV’s “1,000 Ways to Die,”  Discovery's Fit & Health channel series “I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant” and Animal Planet's "I'm Alive”

“I’m an RN so this is my area of expertise,’’ said Lucy Doty, who opened the facility a year and half ago and also serves as a medical consultant on shows.

Several low-budget feature films, including a drama about the homeless called “Monday” also shot there last year. “The building has excellent space for filming, it gives you a gritty, industrial look and it’s relatively cheap,’’ said Crystal Wortman, location manager for “Monday.”

View on interactive map Another downtown venue, the 20-acre Los Angeles Center Studios, was the third-busiest site for on-location filming. A private street runs through the property and it is often used for filming by the TV shows that are based at the studio, including AMC’s “Mad Men” “Law & Order: Los Angeles” and TNT’s “Southland,” said Sam Nicassio, the studio’s president.

“We try to continually add new sets to keep our location fresh,” Nicassio said.

In Boyle Heights, the former Linda Vista Community Hospital attracted several independent films and TV shows in 2010, and has played host over the years to such medical dramas as “E.R.” and movies that included director Wolfgang Petersen’s 1995 sci-fi thriller “Outbreak” about a deadly virus.

“What makes it a great location is that it’s large, you can really get lost in there, and it’s foreboding,’’ said Daniel Schwartz, executive producer of Travel Channel’s “Ghost Stories,” which filmed an episode at the hospital last year entitled “The Ghost of Dr. Edwards.”

Also among the most popular filming desinations last year was a desert outpost east of Lancaster called Club Ed, which includes a 1950s-style diner, motel and gas station built as a set for an obscure 1991 Dennis Hopper movie “Eye of the Storm.” The 12-acre ranch is popular for fashion shoots, commercials, music videos and some TV shows, such as “Southland.”

“I’m not going to be a millionaire out of it,’’ said ranch owner Randy Czajkowski, adding that his facility generates revenue of $300,000 to $550,000 a year. “But it’s a good business.”

-- Richard Verrier

Photo: Crew members get ready to film a scene for "NCIS: Los Angeles" on Ocean Front Walk in Venice. Venice Beach attracted 96 production days and 90 shoots in 2010, including the feature film "The Good Doctor." Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

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Universal Studios puts real money into virtual stage

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"Rampart" movie kicks into high gear

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On Location: 'The Dark Knight Rises' in L.A. as studio sets up production office

Batman 

"The Dark Knight Rises" could give Los Angeles a much-needed lift.

The next installment in the Batman franchise will film at least partially in Los Angeles beginning this summer, people familiar with the project said.

Warner Bros. recently set up a production office for "The Dark Knight Rises" at the Los Angeles Center Studios, where director Christopher Nolan also had an office during the filming of "Inception," which filmed in six countries but featured some key scenes in L.A.

Although it's not clear how much of the movie will film locally, having a major studio feature (with an estimated budget of at least $175 million) shoot even partially in town comes at a welcome time for L.A., which also is playing host to the fourth installment of the "Spider-Man" franchise. The region has been struggling to keep such big productions from shooting outside of California.

The previous Batman "Dark Knight" was filmed in Chicago and Britain, which has attracted a number of feature films because of its film tax credit.

As our sister blog Hero Complex reported, Anne Hathaway will take on the role of Catwoman and Tom Hardy will play the villainous Bane in the next Batman movie, with Christian Bale returning in the title role.

-- Richard Verrier

Photo: Christian Bale as Batman in 2008's "The Dark Knight." Credit: Stephen Vaughan / Warner Bros. 

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