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Chicago Film Industry Had Record 2013, City Says

By  Emily Morris and Chloe Riley | January 21, 2014 9:57am | Updated on January 21, 2014 3:06pm

 Jesse Spencer (l.), Chicago Fire Department Commissioner Jose Santiago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Dick Wolf and Taylor Kinney attend NBC's "Chicago Fire" premiere at the Chicago History Museum on Oct. 2, 2012.
Jesse Spencer (l.), Chicago Fire Department Commissioner Jose Santiago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Dick Wolf and Taylor Kinney attend NBC's "Chicago Fire" premiere at the Chicago History Museum on Oct. 2, 2012.
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Getty Images/Daniel Boczarski

NEAR WEST SIDE — Anyone who experienced the filming of "Chicago Fire," "Chicago PD" or another production in their neighborhoods might have already guessed it: 2013 was a big year for Hollywood in Chicago.

The city said six TV shows, three Hollywood films and 137 commercials came here to shoot during the year and made for a 20 percent increase in production activity from the year before, a new record for the city.

"Chicago Fire" spent $58 million, including $30 million on Illinois wages, while "Chicago PD" spent $29 million, including $21 million on wages, state officials said.

The summertime filming of the Wachowskis' "Jupiter Ascending" along with Michael Bay's "Transformers: Age of Extinction" was expected to bring in $50 million to the local economy alone, the city said initially.

Also filming here during the summer was "Divergent," the movie adaptation of Veronica Roth's dystopian novel.

The city gave some credit to Cinespace Chicago, at 16th Street and Western Avenue, which has 18 stages and is the largest soundstage outside of Hollywood, state officials said.

At a media conference at Cinespace Tuesday morning, Gov. Pat Quinn hailed the state's 30 percent tax credit for film productions that use local crews and talent, noting that Illinois' film industry brought in $358 million in 2013 with two-thirds of that money going directly to workers' wages.

The money generated by the state's film industry this year was nearly double the $184 million spent in 2012.

"Which is a very important thing for so many people, to get an opportunity to work on the West Side of Chicago," Quinn said.

Cinespace's founder, Nikoloas "Nick" Mirkopoulos, died in December. His nephew, Alex Pissios, is now the studio's president. He spoke about his uncle's vision for Cinespace.

"He said if we build a studio, and if everyone works hard to do their best, we can bring the business back to life. So he held up his end of the deal, you held up yours, and he's smiling down on us right now," Pissios told Quinn.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel also gave a nod to Dick Wolf, who helped bring both "Chicago Fire" and its spinoff, "Chicago PD," to local neighborhoods. 

“Our success can be attributed to Chicago’s highly-respected crews and talent, world-class facilities, distinctive cinematic urban landscape, affordability and hands-on city support via the Chicago Film Office team, with a sophisticated understanding of the industry and its needs,” Emanuel said in a statement.

The film office noted that TV series marked some of the biggest growth, with other shows such as ABC's “Betrayal” and “Mind Games” along with NBC's “Crisis" and USA's "Sirens" that filmed here in 2013.

"Scripted one-hour dramas see Chicago as a versatile, cinematic and affordable destination," Chicago Film Office Director Rich Moskal said in the statement.

And while blockbuster films and network TV shows might have received the most attention, homegrown filmmakers were also given a few more opportunities to network and show off their talent. The Chicago Film and Media Summit focused on local filmmakers, and the first Good Pitch Chicago offered documentarians the chance to connect with possible backers for their films. 

New to this year is Chicago Park District's call for locally made or inspired films to become a part of its summer Movies in the Park series.

The year before was also a remarkable year for filming, and the city noted a 40 percent increase in production activity compared to 2011.

“These record stats reflect our city’s greater capacity and maturity as a true production center,” Moskal said. “The past two years have been an important step forward in establishing Chicago as an industry hub.”