Hollywood Comes To Rhode Island

Just down the street from Hollywood Road, the hulking Cranston Street Armory with its crenellated turrets, is once again being put to use as a sound stage. Director James L. Brooks is filming “Ella McCay,” a romantic comedy with Emma Mackey (Barbie), Jamie Lee Curtis (Everything Everywhere, The Bear), and Woody Harrelson (Cheers). I would like very much to bump into one of my personal favorites, Kumail Nanjiani (Silicon Valley, Welcome to Chippendales) as well as Boston native Ayo Edebiri (The Bear). I see that she has producing credits on the TV version of “What We Do In the Shadows” which puts her in the pantheon no matter whatever else she does. Maybe these two can help pump up the comedy aspect of this romantic comedy. The movie also features Albert Brooks (no relation).

According to Rhode Island Current, the six-month lease on the Armory runs through May:

Rhode Island Film & Television Office Executive Director Steven Feinberg told [State Property] committee members that 20th Century Studios’ use of the 116-year old building to film “Ella McCay” would be a great boost to the state’s economy, creating 225 full-time crew jobs.

. . . Under the lease agreement, 20th Century Studios will pay the state $10,000 a month from Dec. 1 through the end of May 2024. The Disney-owned production company will also pay the utilities for the building during that time, something Feinberg said is normally covered by the state.

Bustle fans rejoice! HBO’s “The Gilded Age” has been renewed for a third season. I think it’s safe to say that the Preservation Society of Newport had a merry Christmas. If I may, I have a suggestion for Julian Fellowes — get some help with the dialogue. Much of the writing in the early episodes of Season 2 was pretty clunky, heavy on the exposition — “My nephew is coming to town . . . his wife is dead . . . he has a daughter . . . they live in Baltimore . . .” And while the families were still in New York there was much talk of Newport.  “Gladys is going to Newport . . . will you be going to Newport? We have a house in Newport . . . I’ll meet you in Newport.” It sounded like a drinking game. Having said all that, it did pick up in the final episodes.

And about those bustles; what is the fabric budget on this production? The costumes are insanely beautiful, but they can ease up on those corsets — Christine Baranski (Aunt Agnes) actually had to step in on behalf of Louisa Jacobson (Meryl’s daughter). If this show has serious legs, it might be more expedient just to have a few ribs removed. And the Newport mansions and the Casino really looked swell.

This is good news for our economy. Local people have been hired to work on the Armory set — I know, I met one. And, while it’s not always easy to quantify the effect on tourism, having “Newport” name-checked every other sentence on a Julian Fellowes/HBO project would seem like a Chamber of Commerce dream-come-true. Yes, the arguments concerning tax credits continue, but I think Mr. Feinberg can take a bow as he rings in the new year.

More at The Hollywood Reporter.

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