As we head into Oscar season, New Orleans can boast a couple of recent star-studded red carpet events of its own. The awards ceremony is scheduled to take place Feb. 16, 2017 in Hollywood, California and big-budget movie releases, as well as current productions underway show that Hollywood South is indeed still open for business.
After the September world premiere of “Deepwater Horizon” received a standing ovation at the Toronto Film Festival, speculations began to mount that the $156 million Louisiana-shot feature film released by Lionsgate and Summit Entertainment would become Oscar bait in several categories, especially visual effects.
Six days later, when “Deepwater Horizon” had its United States premiere at the glitzy, invitation only New Orleans’ Orpheum Theatre event, with the international press corps in attendance, actors walking the red carpet included Oscar-nominated Mark Wahlberg, Golden Globe nominees Kurt Russell, Gina Rodriguez and Kate Hudson (stealing the spotlight in a strapless red jumpsuit). Her older brother, Oliver Hudson, was starring in “Scream Queens” when it was concurrently being filmed in New Orleans last year. Producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura, director Peter Berg, Saints players and local actors also attended the premiere.
“I always love coming down to New Orleans,” says di Bonaventura.“What’s not to love?” says Wahlberg.
Oscar and Golden Globe-nominated Woody Harrelson, who starred in the first season of “True Detective” filmed near Erath and New Orleans, hit the red carpet at the Orpheum with director Rob Reiner for the screening of “LBJ” at the New Orleans Film Festival in October. The Warner Brothers political drama stars a crusty Harrelson as President Lyndon B. Johnson during his rise to power.
In yet another Louisiana-shot feature film that holds the promise of becoming a box office moneymaker, Harrelson stars in the upcoming drama “Shock and Awe” with Tommy Lee Jones. Slated for release in 2017, Shock and Awe’s 75-day local shoot wraps mid-November in New Orleans.
Beyond such blockbusters as “Deepwater Horizon,” Hollywood South had several major fall releases filmed in the Bayou State: Screen Gems’ psychological thriller “When the Bough Breaks” starring Regina Hall and Morris Chestnut, shot in Slidell and New Orleans; Paramount’s “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back” starring Tom Cruise, filmed in the New Orleans area in 2015 and 2016; and MGM/Sony’s Baton Rouge-shot remake of “The Magnificent Seven,” starring Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt and Ethen Hawke. In an unprecedented marketing move, Sony and MGM teamed up in an online video shoot-to-kill tournament to promote the remake, held live on Twitch with interactions with the film’s stars.
Director Steven Spielberg headed to Louisiana in October to shoot a segment of one of the most anticipated movies produced in 2016. It’s the sci-fi virtual reality film “Ready Player One” (based on Ernest Cline’s novel), also being filmed in the UK and Alabama. The eight-day shoot was budgeted at approximately $13.6 million in local spending, with around half of that going toward temporary in-state jobs. The release is scheduled for 2018.
Among the more promising 2016 productions slated for release in 2017 that have been filmed locally: “Wolverine 3” starring Hugh Jackman; Universal’s “Beguiled” starring Kirsten Dunst, Nicole Kidman and Elle Fanning; the indie geek-crime comedy “Supercon” starring Mike Epps; the indie feature film “Created Equal” starring Lou Diamond Phillips; and the epic remake of “Benji,” which has earmarked $3 million for 500 temporary in-state jobs. It is filming in New Orleans through November.
Several TV series are on the schedule, including the new Warner Brothers’ “Claws,” and “NCIS New Orleans Season 3” that is filming until April, 2017. FX’s “American Crime Story: The People vs O.J. Simpson” will break new ground by featuring Hurricane Katrina for its second season. Starring John Travolta and Sarah Paulson, filming begins in New Orleans in January, 2017.
Gov. John Bel Edwards stated earlier this year he is planning a comprehensive review of the state’s motion picture production tax credit program, with recommendations for reform and best practices to be addressed in the upcoming 2017 fiscal session.
“Since the dawn of Louisiana’s modern-era film program in 2002, we have played host to more than $6 billion in film and TV production,” he says. “We’ve developed an infrastructure that supports thousands of jobs, boosts small businesses and communities statewide, and provides a powerful impact that we seek to retain. Louisiana’s film industry has my full support. We remain open for business with one of the most attractive incentive programs in the world. We will honor our commitments.”
Economic Impact Study
“There is a tremendous economic impact to the state as a result of the filming activity,” says Christopher Stelly, Executive Director of Louisiana Entertainment. “Our most recent economic impact study (released in 2015) reported over $1 billion in sales with Louisiana businesses (a great deal of them are small businesses), and over $727 million in household earnings based on the spending certified in 2014. Subsequently, over 12,000 jobs were supported and nearly $33 million in local taxes were generated. We are currently working on a new study that will cover the spending certified in 2015 and 2016. This is due to be released in 2017 as required by state law. Movies such as ‘Ready Player One’ are certainly great additions to our ever-expanding canon of motion pictures that have filmed in our state.”
Wolverine’s SinkHole Dilemma
During the filming of Hugh Jackman’s “Wolverine 3” (which is set 50 years in the future), the Twentieth Century Fox production encountered a location challenge in front of Harrah’s Casino when a sink hole appeared in May. According to a local designer (speaking off the record) the resulting Sinkhole de Mayo festival near the site (where hundreds of locals costumed in sombreros and orange hazard cones) caused crews to build an elaborate replica of Harrah’s beside the Superdome. The superhero box-office-hit sequel is slated for a March, 2017 release.