Crews begin prepping areas around Rome for filming next week

FILE — A member of a “Stranger Things” film support crew maneuvers a special lift at the Claremont House on the corner of Second Avenue and East 10th Street on Wednesday, March 4, 2020, as local law enforcement officers monitor traffic around it.

The coronavirus pandemic, after depressing Georgia’s film industry during its early months, actually helped the state bounce back strong during the last fiscal year.

Movie and TV productions accounted for a record $4 billion in direct spending during fiscal 2021, which ended June 30, the Georgia Department of Economic Development reported Wednesday.

That came on the heels of a decline the previous fiscal year, when the economic impact of the pandemic drove down direct film industry spending in Georgia to $2.2 billion, from $2.9 billion in fiscal 2019.

In November 2020, Netflix’s “Stranger Things” returned to continue filming in Rome at the Claremont House on East Second Avenue after a hiatus.

That location has now been theatrically “condemned,” with boarded up windows and dead plants surrounding the home. The 900 block of East Second Avenue will be closed on July 27-29 for periods of time as film crews return to the historic home.

'Stranger Things' filming returns to Rome after COVID-19 hiatus

In this November 2020 file photo, a sign warns of Second Avenue’s closing for film crews as filming of the Netflix science fiction horror show “Stranger Things” is set to resume at Rome’s Claremont House.

“Because Georgia was the first state in the country to reopen our economy and worked with film productions across the state to ensure they could safely continue operations, the Peach State’s film industry is leading the nation,” Gov. Brian Kemp said. “This record-breaking announcement also highlights Georgia’s incredible momentum in economic recovery as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Besides the early reopening of Georgia’s economy, the pandemic itself ironically boosted direct spending by the film industry, officials said.

Safety expenses that TV and movie producers incurred to protect their workers from the virus increased the industry’s direct spending, as did pent-up demand for film projects that built up during the hiatus in shooting that accompanied the pandemic.

“Georgia allowed productions to return before other markets, so we not only had returning shows that shut down due to the pandemic, but we were also able to attract new shows that were slated to shoot in other, locked-down markets,” said Lee Thomas, director of the Georgia Film Office.

“This additional slate of projects, combined with increased budgets due to the need for additional crew and space plus stringent safety measures, led Georgia to have an even higher than projected record year.”

During fiscal 2021, 366 productions filmed in Georgia, represented by 21 feature films, 45 independent films, 222 television and episodic productions, 57 commercials and 21 music videos.

Among those is the recently released “Black Widow.” The opening scenes of the blockbuster, while labeled as Ohio, were filmed in Rome under the working title “Blue Bayou” in 2019.

'Blue Bayou' filming continues around Rome

In this October 2019 photo, a camera car for “Blue Bayou,” the working title of the new Black Widow movie, waits at Chuck’s Corner for traffic to clear on South Broad Street to film a scene.

Georgia’s film industry took off after the General Assembly passed lucrative tax credits in 2008 to incentivize producers to shoot their projects here. For more than a decade, the industry has posted exponential growth with new record spending regularly set by productions.

Besides its wide range of natural settings for filmmaking from the mountains to the coast, Georgia now offers 2.1 million square feet in purpose-built stage space and 3.2 million square feet in retrofitted stage and dedicated warehouse space.

Additional Georgia-lensed film and television programs are set to be released in the weeks and months ahead, including Disney’s “Jungle Cruise,” the DC Films production “The Suicide Squad,” and a movie adaptation of the hit Broadway show “Dear Evan Hansen.”

Dave Williams with Capitol Beat News Service contributed to this report.

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