Cost of a bridge closure: 70,000 detours. Cost of a positive film-industry reputation: 'Invaluable'
Five-day closure of Arlington Bridge constitutes longest recent shutdown of its kind for a film production
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."
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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
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.
"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.