Manitoba

Cost of a bridge closure: 70,000 detours. Cost of a positive film-industry reputation: 'Invaluable'

The closure of the Arlington Bridge for a movie shoot this week will require motorists to make about 70,000 1.6-kilometre detours — and also helps solidify what officials describe as the city's reputation for working closely with the film-production industry.

Five-day closure of Arlington Bridge constitutes longest recent shutdown of its kind for a film production

Arlington Bridge is closed this week for a film shoot. (John Einarson/CBC)

The closure of the Arlington Bridge for a movie shoot this week will require motorists to make about 70,000 1.6-kilometre detours — and also helps solidify what officials describe as the city's reputation for working closely with the film-production industry.

The Arlington Bridge closed Monday morning and will remain closed until Friday evening in what constitutes the longest closure of a bridge for movie-production purposes in recent memory.

The city declined to identify the production due to what spokesperson Kailey Barron described as a need to preserve "the city's competitive edge in the film-production industry" and to reduce the potential for the formation large crowds of gawkers, which "could inhibit or make an unsafe working environment for the crews, especially with intricate special effects."

Film industry sources, however, suggested the most likely candidate is How It Ends, a Netflix production starring Theo James of the Divergent series and Oscar-winner Forest Whitaker, which began shooting in Winnipeg on July 31.

Decisions made on case-by-case basis 

Film trucks are parked in the parking lot of a Sobey's in the North End, at the foot of the Arlington Bridge. An average of $108 million worth of film production is shot in Manitoba every year. (John Einarson/CBC)
The decision to close the Arlington Bridge, which is crossed by approximately 15,000 vehicles on an average weekday, was made easier because the aging structure is not a Winnipeg Transit route and also is not a truck route, Winnipeg traffic-management engineer Stephen Chapman said.

The decision to close any bridge or thoroughfare for a film shoot in Winnipeg is made on a case-by-case basis, Chapman said.

"There's an overall look at the traffic situation and then there's a look at what else is going on in that particular timeframe that may create issues," he said Wednesday, explaining the Arlington Bridge could not be closed if there was construction at or near the McPhillips Street underpass or the Slaw Rebchuk Bridge — the two closest alternative means of crossing the CPR Winnipeg Yards.

"We look at capacity. We look at the alternate routes," Chapman said. "Is there any work going on on the routes that people will be taking when this facility is closed or when traffic is somehow restricted?"

Another factor is time of year, he said. Motor-vehicle traffic during the first week of September is less than the second week of the month, he said.

Films pay thousands per day to close a bridge 

There are also few costs associated with a bridge closing, compared to closing a road because city staff only have to post signs ahead of time at the foot of the bridge and then "drag barricades across at the either end and it's done," Chapman said. 

The city also charges film-production companies for closing bridges. While spokesperson Barron said she could not disclose the fee for closing the Arlington Bridge, the going rate for a three-day bridge closure is somewhere between $20,000 and $30,000 she said.

The city considers its overall transportation needs before approving a bridge closure, traffic management engineer Stephen Chapman said.
The economic benefits are well beyond the cost-recovery fee, said Nicole Matiation, the executive director of On Screen Manitoba, the provincial media-production association.

"It is invaluable to have a municipality be prepared to work so closely and co-operatively with the film and television business. It's one of our selling points," she said on Wednesday.

Matiation added she's aware of the inconvenience caused by film shoots, which usually impact residential neighbourhoods with character homes and architecturally distinct areas such as the Exchange District.

"When the film industry is busy, it does take up space. Films shoot on location and they're looking for locations that are characters in and of themselves," she said.

Not the first bridge to be closed

The city has closed bridges before. The Midtown Bridge, which allows Donald Street to cross the Assiniboine River, was closed for three hours on April 9 for Break My Heart 1000 Times, a post-apocalyptic feature slated for a 2018 release.

The William Clement Parkway was closed for two consecutive nights for One Christmas Eve, a 2014 Anne Heche comedy, while the Esplanade Riel pedestrian bridge served as a location for Faces In The Crowd, a Mila Jovovich horror film released in 2011.
The closure of the Arlington Bridge for a movie shoot this week will require motorists to make about 70,000 1.6-kilometre detours — and also helps solidify what officials describe as the city's reputation for working closely with the film-production industry. 1:15

About the Author

Bartley Kives

Reporter, CBC Manitoba

Reporter Bartley Kives joined CBC Manitoba in 2016. Prior to that, he spent three years at the Winnipeg Sun and 18 at the Winnipeg Free Press, writing about politics, music, food and outdoor recreation. He's the author of the Canadian bestseller A Daytripper's Guide to Manitoba: Exploring Canada's Undiscovered Province and co-author of both Stuck in the Middle: Dissenting Views of Winnipeg and Stuck In The Middle 2: Defining Views of Manitoba. His work has also appeared in publications such as the Guardian and Explore magazine.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.