PEABODY — Hollywood appears to be taking an active interest in the Tanner City.
Scenes from a number of movies with big name stars have been filmed in Peabody over the years. And now, in just the past month, city officials say at least four separate productions have expressed interest in filming in the city. Big names including Showtime and HBO have reached out — there was even a Leonardo DiCaprio movie that was considering filming in Peabody.
This has prompted city officials to try and make it easier for Hollywood stars to be on set here. They're eyeing some zoning changes.
"We’re sort of on Hollywood's radar as a place to do film development and production if they're coming to Massachusetts," Community Development Director Curt Bellavance said. "We want to be proactive and try to figure out how this is all going to fit within the zoning. We don’t want that to be a stumbling block."
There aren't really any guidelines now for production companies under the city's zoning, Bellevance explained. There isn't even an application for location scouts to fill out, so Bellavance or the mayor's chief of staff Chris Ryder — both liaisons to the Massachusetts Film Office — end up asking 20 questions.
"These types of businesses come real quickly — they come in, there could be no activity, then another comes in — I don’t want to react all the time," Bellavance said. "I want something on the books that shows that we’re open for business."
The City Council's Industrial and Community Development Committee will meet Thursday to begin a discussion surrounding possible zoning changes that would outline what production companies can and cannot do within the city lines.
These changes would likely allow filming, by right, in Centennial industrial park, according to City Councilor Jon Turco, but he and other councilors are still unsure of what exactly the language will entail. Turco and fellow councilors Ryan Melville, Tom Gould, Tom Rossignoll and Peter McGinn will discuss how to iron out the details on Thursday.
"I think it's a good idea in general," Melvillle said. "These productions bring a lot of people who need to have lunch, catered food, they need hotel rooms — things like that. It can generate a lot of good business."
Some of the recent productions that have been filmed in the city include "Patriots Day" with Mark Wahlberg, and several Adam Sandler movies.
Sandler's company, Happy Madison Productions, set up to film scenes for a Netflix movie at the Roadhouse Pub on Pulaski Street just about a year ago. This was after the company was rebuffed in Danvers to film in a neighborhood near Endicott Park because that town's residential zoning didn't allow homes to be used as movie sets. A Special Town Meeting in December later rectified that by allowing filming at homes with a special permit.
Happy Madison Productions was in Peabody in 2011 as well, filming scenes for "That's My Boy," when they installed a racy sign at the Cabaret Lounge on Route 1 for "Classy Rick's Bacon & Leggs."
Some details Bellavance said he hopes to iron out with the zoning language include setting up studios inside buildings and out, the number of days or months a production company could be in Peabody, and applications and amenities they may require, such as electrical hookups or police details.
"What do they need? We need to have that filed on the books so we know they're there," he said.
Draft language will be presented for the committee's review on Thursday. The Planning Board will also review proposed changes and finally, it will go before the City Council for a public hearing and a final vote.
Mary Markos may be contacted at 978-338-2660 or firstname.lastname@example.org.