Hollywood East moves a little west

It wasn’t that long ago that area newspapers and other media outlets were filled with stories about the burgeoning movie industry and plans to open sprawling production facilities and sound stages at nearly every planned development project.

It comes to mind as Boston magazine runs a look at New England Studios in Devens, the only film production project to make it off the drawing board and into reality. Plymouth? Weymouth? Quincy? Charlestown? Not so much.

Remember Plymouth Rock Studios, the first production proposal in the state that kicked off the nickname Hollywood East? The ambitious plan was to build a sprawling campus to accommodate production, editing, filming, sound, even a major computer-generated imagery facility. It would employ hundreds, create job-training opportunities, draw the biggest names in the movie industry pining to film in a state that was just begging filmmakers to roll ’em here.

 

But they’re still playing golf at the Waverly Oaks Golf Course in America’s Hometown and there’s now a proposal to build 113 residential homes on the site, a project that choked the final air out of Plymouth Rock Studios.

There was also a proposal to build a $147 million movie production complex at Southfield, the mixed-use development struggling to move forward at the former South Weymouth Naval Air Base. A new developer has taken over the entire project, fighting with the quasi-public agency charged with overseeing the development, and all is silent on the movie complex’s fate. The soundstage at the Fore River Shipyard in Quincy? Not a peep. And don’t look for any foundation at Bunker Hill Community College in Charlestown for a soundstage that had $25 million set aside in the state budget for years before dying on the vine.

The state’s 25 percent film tax credit continues to be the draw for made-in-Massachusetts movies, several of the big budget variety. Case in point: Currently filming all around Boston is Black Mass, starring Johnny Depp as Whitey Bulger. Then again, where else would they film such a movie?

But the argument that production would drop off unless there were facilities to allow producers to put the film together here does not seem to hold true. Black Mass is the third movie filmed so far this year and follows a record-setting year in which 22 movies and television shows were filmed at least in part in the Bay State, nine more than were filmed here the year before. All those were made before New England Studios opened its doors in February.

Like chicken soup, it may not help but it won’t hurt to have a nearby full production facility available for filmmakers. In fact, New England Studios was the base of operations earlier this year for Tumbledown, a feature film with a $4 million budget that is set in Maine but because of high production costs and lack of a viable tax credit in the Pine Tree state, the producer shifted everything to central Massachusetts and rented office space at the Devens complex as well as the soundstage. But make no mistake, the controversial tax credit, which opponents see as a giveaway to Hollywood producers and actors, is the star.

“Within an hour of downtown Boston, we found the closest match for the Maine architecture, the forest, the classic New England antiquity and charm of the small rural town we were trying to replicate,” Desi Van Til, the Maine native who wrote the book the movie is based upon, told the Los Angeles Times. “Plus, Massachusetts had the benefit of a robust film incentive program.”

–JACK SULLIVAN  

BEACON HILL

In the most damning testimony yet that ties former Probation commissioner John O’Brien to a rigged hiring system, a one-time top aide testified he would change scores and answers at O’Brien’s direction to make sure applicants sponsored by legislators were the top candidates. Meanwhile, the one-time aide, Francis Wall, discloses he has immunity from state prosecution for what he says at the federal trial.

House and Senate lawmakers reach a compromise on a minimum wage bill that would increase the hourly wage to $11 in three years but not index it with inflation.

Attorney General Martha Coakley will open an investigation into the 2009 death of a patient at Bridgewater State Hospital who died after being put in restraints in a manner that violated regulations.

Ralph Gants is approved as chief justice of the Supreme Judicial Court.

Derrick Jackson says the proposed $1.1 billion expansion of the South Boston convention center is a boondoggle that won’t generate the economic activity proponents are touting. He says the money could be much better spent on transit or other public projects. The Pioneer Institute’s Charlie Chieppo, in an op-ed for the Boston Business Journal, argues that the convention center has fallen so short of its original expectations that even the billion-dollar expansion isn’t expected to get the facility to the benchmarks its architects set in 1997.

The House’s economic development chair softens his stance against employment noncompete agreements, saying he wants both sides of the issue to air out their differences at a legislative hearing.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

A fight is brewing between Attleboro farmers and Bristol County’s mosquito control program.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh talks in detail about his alcoholism at the Pine Street Inn’s job training graduation ceremony.

CASINOS

As expected, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission says it is set to award the state’s first casino license to MGM Resorts International for a facility in Springfield. The commission plans to delay payment of the $85 million licensing fee until after the referendum question repealing casino gambling is settled, the Associated Press reports.

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

The National Review examines the role of conservative talk radio in the stunning primary upset of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. The Atlantic examines why Cantor fell to a tea party uprising, but South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, who embraced immigration reform in his reelection fight, survived. The New York Times talks to Virginia voters who say they grew disconnected from Cantor, and previews further Republican infighting. Gail Collins notes that David Brat spent only slightly more money on his entire campaign than Cantor spent on steak dinners. The Wall Street Journal previews the House leadership fight that Cantor’s loss sets up. The New Republic‘s Noam Scheiber says Democrats like Hillary Clinton should be a little worried about the populist rage from the right that took down Cantor also causing trouble for Dems when it comes from the left. Of Cantor’s loss, Republican pollster Frank Luntz writes that the vanquished GOP leader’s pollster committed “quantitative malpractice,” with the caveat that “there isn’t a pollster alive – me included – who hasn’t had to take the walk of shame, hat in hand, to explain to an angry client why a predicted outcome simply didn’t happen.” Above all else, writes Matt Bai, Cantor may have fallen not because of any positions he has taken but because he was afflicted with the stilted Beltway demeanor that voters are increasingly intolerant of.

Nate Cohn argues that Washington gridlock mirrors the increasingly hyper-partisan public that elects Congress.

Senate Republicans block action on Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s student loan bill.

A Washington businessman is suing to overturn a wave of local prohibitions and moratoriums against commercial marijuana sales in the state, which legalized the drug in 2012. The fight is a preview of the type of legal wrangling that could be headed for Massachusetts, as a national marijuana advocacy group gears up a campaign to put legalization of the drug on the 2016 ballot.

ELECTIONS

A Globe editorial warns Massachusetts Democrats in advance of their upcoming state convention not to get all insider-y and complacent, despite their across-the-board dominance in elected offices.

The liberal activist group Progressive Mass, which already endorsed Don Berwick for governor, throws in with Maura Healey in the Democratic primary for attorney general.

The John Tierney-Richard Tisei congressional rematch is drawing national interest, the Gloucester Times reports.

The Democratic candidates for governor discussed housing, criminal justice and economic development at a forum organized by by ward committee leaders representing parts of liberal and minority areas in Boston.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

With the future of the Southfield mixed use development at the former South Weymouth naval air base uncertain, and with questions looming about its own fate, the quasi-public agency overseeing the project approved a three-month operating budget to start the fiscal year.

Bain Capital has agreed to pay a $54 million fine to settle a case in which it was accused of colluding with other firms to block a rivals in acquisition bidding.

EDUCATION

Graduates of Worcester Technical High School get some high praise for their achievements from a high office as President Obama jets into town to deliver the school’s commencement address. NECN has video.

The finance committee of the UMass Board of Trustees approves a freeze on tuition and fees for next year.

HEALTH CARE

In a collaboration with Saint Anne’s Hospital in Fall River, Hasbro Children’s Hospital in Providence will bring some of its pediatric specialists to Fall River.

In a conference call with reporters, several members of Congress slammed the US Drug Enforcement Agency for threatening sanctions against Massachusetts physicians involved with medical marijuana dispensaries.

TRANSPORTATION

“Great, another bridge to have to argue with your spouse over which one to go over to get home.” and other opinions collected by the Cape Cod Times via Facebook about the percolating third bridge proposal.

A Pittsfield company gets a $70 million contract to provide precast concrete deck panels on the new Tappan Zee Bridge.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

The international environmental advocacy group Nature Conservancy has released a study showing nitrogen pollution from farms and septic systems is killing eelgrass along the shorelines from Long Island to the south coast of New England.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

The Supreme Judicial Court ruled that sex offenders who have completed their sentences cannot be subject to lifetime supervision by the state Parole Board. The court said only judges have the authority to issue such mandates. State lawmakers expect to quickly enact legislation restoring long-term supervision to the offenders.

MEDIA

Kickstarter officially launches a new funding category: journalism.