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Booming Chicago Film Industry Breaks Records With $1.3 Billion In Revenue

By Stephanie Lulay | September 1, 2016 8:46am
 Mayor Rahm Emanuel and producer Dick Wolf pose Wednesday with
Mayor Rahm Emanuel and producer Dick Wolf pose Wednesday with "Chicago Fire" and "Chicago Med" stars at Cinespace Film Studios.
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DNAinfo/Stephanie Lulay

NORTH LAWNDALE — With more TV shows filming in Chicago than ever, the filming boom is bringing in record revenue, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced Wednesday. 

The boom has translated into more than $1.3 billion in economic activity from film and commercial production from 2011-2015, adding local jobs and boosting Chicago's neighborhoods, said Emanuel, who made a cameo appearance on "Chicago Fire" in 2012.

Joined by award-winning producer Dick Wolf, NBCUniversal executives, union heads and stars from the "Chicago Fire" franchise, Emanuel said the city has seen a two-fold increase in TV shows filming here over last year. This year's filming is expected to outpace previous years, too, the mayor said Wednesday at Cinespace Film Studios

The five-year filming period brought in more than double what was realized between 2006 and 2010, which totaled a little less than $600 million, according to the Mayor's Office. 

"We are proud that Chicago continues to serve as a destination for filming and commercial activity, due to our talented residents, state-of-the-art facilities, and affordable services — not to mention our iconic skyline and the rich character and diversity of Chicago’s neighborhoods," Emanuel said. 

In total, eight major TV series filmed full-time in Chicago this year — a record number, according to officials with the Chicago Film Office. Another two major shows film locally part time, officials said. 

In 2015, four full-time TV series in production in Chicago were Fox's "Empire," and Wolf-produced "Chicago Fire," "Chicago PD" and "Chicago Med" on NBC. In 2016, four additional series were added: "Patriot” from Amazon Studios; “The Exorcist” and “A.P.B” from 20th Century Fox Television; and "Chicago Justice," set to begin production this month at Cinespace. 

Showtime's "Shameless" and Netflix's "Sense8" also film in Chicago part time. 

On average, a single season of one network television series spends $30 million-$40 million locally and hires anywhere from 250 to 400 people, according to the mayor's office. NBC has paid more than $150 million in wages and employed 1,300 people locally on the production of its respective series this season alone.

With three additional Fox shows and a new Amazon series filming concurrently, Chicago is on pace to exceed last year’s 1,902 filming days and total revenue of $330 million in Illinois spending for the 2015 fiscal year. 

In addition to TV series, Chicago has also served as home to the following major motion pictures in recent years: "Man of Steel," "Divergent," "Jupiter Ascending," "Transformers: Age of Extinction," and "Batman V. Superman." "Southside with You," the story of Barack & Michelle Obama’s first date, is expanding to more theaters this Labor Day weekend.

The filming boom is just the beginning, said Alex Pissios, president of Cinespace, where most of the shows film. 

"People love this city. It's a world-class city and I think this is just the beginning," he said. 

According to the Illinois Film Office — which awards a 30 percent tax credit to film, television and advertising productions for qualified expenditures of Illinois crew members, goods and services — projects in 2015 generated an estimated $330 million in Illinois spending, an 18 percent increase over the previous year, and employed thousands of Illinois residents.

“The City of Chicago is attracting unprecedented film activity and supporting our homegrown filmmakers and artists,” said Mark Kelly, commissioner of the city Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events.

Related Cinespace News: 

• Could 'Chicago Fire' Spawn 10 Spin-Off Shows? Star Taylor Kinney Thinks So

• Dick Wolf's Cellphone Rings With Law & Order's 'Dun-Dun!' Noise

• Cinespace Aims to Bring Hollywood-Style Backlot Tours to Chicago

• Cinespace Film Studios Launching Incubator for Filmmakers

• North Lawndale Street Renamed in Honor of Late Cinespace Founder

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