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News + Views

Will Smith’s Men in Black Films in Carroll Gardens

By Lisa M. Collins

Crowd turns out to watch Men in Black filming on Court Street Memorial Day weekend.
Photo by Joshua Kristal

We’ve seen our share of action recently as Hollywood has some fun in Carroll Gardens. Memorial Day weekend, Court Street from President to Nelson was taken over by film crew, directors, aliens and stunt men on futuristic motorcycles who drove against traffic for a chase scene, ending with a crash at Court and President Street.

It’s the $250 million (yes, that’s a quarter of a billion) filming of Men in Black III, a science fiction comedy directed by Barry Sonnenfeld and starring one of Hollywood’s top earners, Will Smith. The latest installment in the series sends Smith back to 1969 to chase aliens (in Carroll Gardens). (Yes, the old-timers are right! We do have aliens here… I knew it.)

Hundreds of crew transformed Court beginning Wednesday. First came 75 classic 1960s cars, parked up and down the street. Then came the rest of the massive setup for a two-night shoot, including lots of tall lights and reflectors.

Crowds turned out on Saturday night to watch the action, as Will Smith’s-double chased an “alien” on a lowrider. They only went about 35 mph.

Lots of cool gear was at play, including a camera, attached to the front of the stunt man’s motorcycle, equipped with an air tank to blow water away from the lens. The camera filmed what the audience will see as Will Smith’s view as he chases the alien.

Store owners along Court Street were paid from $300 to $400 to keep lights on at night and gates lifted. Despite the compensation, many worried the lack of parking and the busy filming would cause them to lose money. Many shops in our Court-n-Smith business district report their biggest sales on Saturdays; and some, like Esposito’s Jersey Pork Store meat shop, at Court and President, count Memorial Day weekend as a top sales weekend.

It’s crazy that the filmmakers would pick such a busy street on which to film. But hey, they’ve got the budget (quarter-billion), and the city seems happy to oblige.

According to a March report by N.Y. State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, New York City is the second-largest movie location after Hollywood. In 1966, nearly 40 years ago, the city set up a special department to facilitate local filming (the Mayor’s Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting), including an NYPD Movie/TV unit.

DiNapoli’s report was issued as the state debated extending a 30 percent tax break on expenses to TV and film producers who film in New York. The comptroller’s report said the film and TV industry employed around 63,000 workers and paid as much as $5 billion in wages in New York in 2008, with the bulk in NYC.

State lawmakers extended the tax break to last through 2014, at a cost of about $420 million a year to the state. DiNapoli’s report said the state tax break generated nearly $7 billion in “economic activity” in New York since 2004, or more than $1 billion a year.

Moviemakers, as of last year, must pay to NYC a controversial $300 fee before filming. The NYPD movie unit provides free parking and traffic assistance. When actors use prop firearms or are dressed as cops, the real cops are on hand, at no cost to the filmmaker.

The first Men in Black came out in 1997, starring Tommy Lee Jones, Will Smith and Vincent D’Onofrio. It filmed for $90 million, and grossed over $587 million. In 2008, Will Smith took home $80 million, the highest that year in Hollywood earners, according to Forbes Magazine.

So yes, filming on Court Street was expensive. But with numbers like these, who’s counting?

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Readers' Comments


Lori Burch
October 22, 2011
10:07 PM

Just wanted to inform the PTA’s that are close to Park Slope South, that there is a restaurant that has ” kids eat free ” every Tuesday as long as the kid is accompanied by an adult who is eating there. It is nice to find such a treat in this economic market. It is Piramide Mexican Restaurant at 499 5th Avenue, btwn 12th and 13th Street.
Pass this info on.