Universal to shoot Tim Allen film here Main Street is set for major movie

March 18, 1997|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

The horse and buggy will jostle the automobile off Main Street for three days of movie filming, as Universal Studios Inc. and star Tim Allen transform downtown Westminster into Pennsylvania Dutch country.

The change should occur next month if the weather cooperates, location manager George W. Spicer told city officials and downtown merchants yesterday.

"The star of the show is a very popular man right now called Tim Allen who's coming off a couple of very big hits, so we expect this to be a very big hit," Spicer said. Allen also stars in the popular ABC television sitcom "Home Improvement."

The film, "For Richer or Poorer," is a present-day comedy about a New York City hotshot who finds new values in Amish country. The female lead hasn't been cast, Spicer said. His son, Bryan Spicer, will direct.

Westminster is serving as a stand-in for the real Lancaster County in deference to the Amish culture, which discourages self-promotion such as photographs.

Filming will be outdoors along Main Street, with a few shop interiors, Spicer said. They need to set up one fabric shop -- there is none now -- and some signs will be changed to look more like Lancaster's.

"For one day, we need control of the street because we have all these carriages," Spicer said.

A lot of people will show up to watch, Spicer said, and that means money for the merchants.

Other outdoor scenes will be shot in Carroll, at an undisclosed farm that's already been leased and is being modified, said Catherine W. Councill, location manager for the Maryland Film Office of the state's Department of Business and Economic Development.

The farm location required "a very isolated look," she said. The movie will be shot almost entirely in Maryland, except for a few New York scenes.

Even some of this "street stuff" will actually be downtown Baltimore.

Interior scenes -- such as a New York City penthouse -- will be filmed at a warehouse in Glen Burnie, where Universal has set up shop.

The crew can work there if it rains and reschedule the work on Main Street, Spicer said. "That's the one thing we dread is the rain."

Street to be closed

Filming on Main Street between Longwell Avenue and Railroad Avenue will mean closing that stretch for at least one day, with intermittent closings on two additional days.

Representatives of the Westminster Fire Department, which averages 10 to 12 ambulance runs a day, said they could relocate for one day. Spicer said the film company will make a donation to the department.

Shooting will require a few big trucks close to the action, but others can park behind Main Street or possibly at the old armory building on Longwell Avenue.

Other problems seemed relatively minor, and the dozen or more merchants who came to the meeting were generally receptive. They asked whether their signs would be used in the film, and several urged against a Saturday shoot, because it's their most profitable day.

The downtown library will have to reroute the bookmobile and day care vans, a representative said.

But the merchants seemed to agree that their businesses won't suffer too much, because customers can use rear entrances from the city's Sherwood and Longwell parking lots.

Spicer told the merchants that he would worry about crowds inside the shops, shooing them back if they get too close to the windows.

Merchants will be paid $100 to cover minor disruptions, such as "any kind of signs that we might have to put in your window," he said. Some will keep their own names while others will be modified. Thus, Winchester Exchange will become Lancaster Exchange, while 7 East Antiques might have the "7 East" covered on its sign.

The film company will make a donation to a local cause, to be chosen by the community.

Spicer said he's a professional location man. "I don't work for one studio: They hire me to find places to film, so I'm darn sure not to spoil the places I film. My next job might be with Warner Brothers, to find a small town."

Movie means money

Being chosen means "there's an awful lot of money coming in," he said, although the amount isn't known until afterward. "We'll be buying every nail, every piece of wood."

Restaurants at some locations have seen a 60 percent increase in business.

But food for the cast and crew will be catered, he said, in response to questions -- and a plug for their 3-foot Italian hoagies -- from Tony and Kay D'Eugenio of Giulianova Groceria.

Although downtown will be disrupted for a few days, Spicer said, "in the long run, it's going to help."

Eight years after the Harrison Ford thriller "Witness" -- which also featured the Amish -- "there are still people, tourists, coming and looking for that farm," he said. Similarly, people still visit Ohio looking for the "Field of Dreams" of the 1989 film.

Westminster has been used for several commercials, noted Thomas B. Beyard, the city's director of planning and public works, but this will be its first big-studio movie.

"We're very excited about it," he said. "Westminster will be in a major film with a major studio.

"Those of you who have been through this know the impact," Beyard told the merchants. "The good side is, studies in towns similar to Westminster of tourism and the economy are very positive."

Councill, of the film commission, said so many commercials have been shot in the state that the office doesn't keep track of them anymore.

And Maryland's role in movies and television continues to blossom, she said, crediting native filmmakers John Waters and Barry Levinson with planting the seed.

Tourists follow stars

"It brings in millions and millions of dollars," she said. The television series "Homicide" alone has meant $22.5 million in economic development for the state.

And, Beyard told them, "Think of having your barbershop, your sign, forever in a Universal picture."

Pub Date: 3/18/97

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