Punisher Spends $12 Million in Tampa

Artisan Entertainment said it will spend $12 million preparing and shooting "The Punisher" movie in Tampa. Although specific details of the movie budget are confidential, that figure is in line with one based on a method industry observers use to estimate
Film No `Punisher' To Tampa

TAMPA - Hemlock and Flagler will never be mistaken for Hollywood and Vine, even with the film crew of ``The Punisher'' on location.

But the lack of glamour at the former Tampa Electric Co. power station at the Port of Tampa means little to Bob Smith, a Hillsborough County resident known as Smitty of Bob Smith's Craft Services.

One recent afternoon, Smitty was busy setting up his catering truck for an all-night session of providing food and beverages to the movie craft trades - like electricians, carpenters and grips. This night's shift began at 5 p.m. Smitty customarily works 16- to 18- hour stretches.

But it's work that Smitty and other locals could not have expected earlier this year, before ``The Punisher'' chose Tampa over Canadian and other southern U.S. locations.

Artisan Entertainment said it will spend $12 million preparing and shooting ``The Punisher'' here.

Although details of the movie budget are confidential, that figure is in line with one based on a method industry observers use to estimate local economic impact, based on filming days.

About $6 million might go to local businesses: hotels, restaurants, car rentals and others, said Andrew Golov, Artisan's executive vice president of production.

The remainder will be paid to outside help - like Tony's Food Service of Chatsworth, Calif. With catering credits from ``Animal House'' to ``Sea Biscuit,'' Tony's earned the job of feeding stars such as John Travolta on ``The Punisher'' set.

But even Tony's crew of four is spending nights in Tampa hotels and buying food from local sources, said Tony Kerum, whose niece, Mara Kerum, directs operations on the Tampa job.

``She says everyone has been nice to work with,'' Tony Kerum said during a telephone interview from his California office. ``The hotels even help wash the pots and pans.''

The filming is working smoothly, Golov said, which could bolster Tampa's reputation in the intensely competitive U.S. film industry.

``The big issue is our guys can make a movie cheaper in Canada, so we have to narrow the gap,'' Golov said.

``Tampa has been extremely cooperative in steering us toward people that can make us cost effective here, with office space, hotel rooms, locations in general.''

Tampa in movie industry parlance is a ``price sensitive'' city, said Susan Albershardt, who heads the Florida's film recruiting industry efforts for Gov. Bush's office.

``Unlike Miami, which gets movies for which budgets might not seem to be an issue, places like Tampa, Orlando and Jacksonville must bend over backward in service,'' said Albershardt, who knows something about being frugal.

The Legislature cut the state film commission's budget by 40 percent to $320,000 for the fiscal year that began July 1.

Most of the movie will be filmed in Hillsborough, although two Pinellas County locations will be used to simulate Puerto Rican beach scenes, said Jennifer Parramore, St. Petersburg-Clearwater film commissioner.

Neither Tampa nor the county is contributing funds or services for the film, said Karen Brand, marketing director for the Tampa Bay Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Local hotel arrangements and prices that might have been negotiated are confidential, Brand said. But the visitors bureau expects the film shoot will result in hotels selling 5,000 room-nights between May and October.

Commercials and still productions make up the bulk of film activity in Tampa, Brand said. But in May, when officials announced ``The Punisher'' would be shot in Tampa, Hillsborough's film office got 839 inquiries, compared with 173 in April, Brand said.

She added: ``Certainly it's safe to say that interest in Tampa Bay as a filming location has been on the rise thanks to ``The Punisher.''

It's a pattern that Smith, whose job depends on reputation and referrals, knows well.

``We should be able to get more films here,'' he said. ``When it comes down to it, it's about word of mouth, keeping people happy.''

Reporter Ted Jackovics can be reached at (813) 259-7817.



A look at the economic impact from filming in Hillsborough County.Economic Impact from Filming in Hillsborough County Fiscal Economic Projects Locally Room Year Impact Employed Nights 1998-99 $46,242,500 167 4,119 2,647 1999-2000 $49,043,189 168 5,621 3,887 2000-01 $37,853,350 151 5,637 5,823 2001-02 $30,249,800 112 5,087 2,498 2002-03* $22,333,790 106 4,146 7,448 *Figures are through June. They do not reflect the economic impact from ``The Punisher,'' but do reflect ``Punisher'' room nights and some local employment. Fiscal year is October-September.
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