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'The Producers' Set for Silver Screen

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Mel Brooks' production company, Brooksworks, LLC, has announced that the much anticipated $45 million film version of his hit musical "The Producers" will be filmed in New York City at Steiner Studios, the new, 280,000-square-foot, 15-acre film complex rising at the historic Brooklyn Navy Yard. "The Producers" is the first major film project landed by Steiner Studios, which is to open officially later this fall.

At a widely covered Tues., Sept. 28 press conference heralding the announcement, Brooks was joined by the film's director, Susan Stroman (who won Tony Awards for her direction and choreography of the Broadway tuner), New York Gov. George E. Pataki, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, and a wide variety of state, city, and local officials. Starring Nathan Lane, Matthew Broderick, Nicole Kidman, and Will Ferrell, "The Producers" will head into preproduction before year's end, and filming is set to begin next February. The tentative release date for the film is late 2005.

Steiner Studios, according to a written statement from the company, is to be "New York City's first Hollywood-style (and scale) production and support facility," fully equipped for "start-to-finish production of major motion pictures, independent films, television, music videos, and broadcast commercials." The studio estimated that it would generate at least 1,000 local jobs.

In the press conference, both Pataki and Bloomberg specifically cited a set of new state and city tax incentives as one of the reasons why "The Producers" chose to shoot here.

As reported on Aug. 27, the governor has signed into law landmark tax incentives for film and TV production, a move that was enthusiastically backed by an industrywide coalition. The law provides $100 million over four years -- $25 million annually -- to cover tax write-offs for films and TV shows produced in New York state. It also allows New York City to provide as much as $12.5 million in annual tax credits for production in the city. The law additionally covers below-the-line costs for feature films and TV series that shoot 75% of their productions in New York.

Brooks also noted that the original film version of "The Producers," back in 1968, was shot in New York City as well.

But "The Producers" is far from the only Broadway-to-film property currently in the can or in the developmental pipeline. Indeed, in the wake of the success of "Chicago," which captured six Academy Awards in 2003 and became the first musical since "Oliver!' in 1968 to take the top prize, interest in turning stage works into films is growing.

For example, "Contact" -- the 2000 Tony winner for best musical, directed and choreographed for Broadway by Stroman and to be filmed by her as well -- is currently in development and will be Stroman's next project after wrapping up "The Producers."

Last week it was also announced that "Hairspray," the 2003 best musical Tony winner, will become a movie musical under the New Line aegis. The director and choreographer of the Broadway show, Jack O'Brien and Jerry Mitchell, will make their feature-film debuts with the project. Bob Shaye and Michael Lynne, the co-chairs of New Line, will also be involved in the production, which is something of a homecoming for Shaye: He executive-produced the John Waters film "Hairspray," upon which the Main Stem tuner is based.

"Rent" is yet another example of a Tony-winning musical on track for the big screen. The right of first refusal for co-financing and distributing the film had been held by Miramax Films, but on Fri., Oct. 1, The Hollywood Reporter noted that Revolution Studios is now adapting the Jonathan Larson musical, with "Harry Potter" director Chris Columbus at the helm. A holiday-season 2005 release is planned.

All of which does not mean that Miramax is completely out of the Broadway-to-film genre: The studio has finished filming David Auburn's Pulitzer Prize-winning "Proof," although a release date has yet to be set. Also, Entertainment Weekly reported last spring that a new film version of "Damn Yankees" is in the works as well.

Among plays, Patrick Marber's "Closer" is also in the can; Columbia Pictures has set a Dec. 3 release date for the film, which stars Julia Roberts, Jude Law, and Natalie Portman. An early Theresa Rebeck play, "Sunday on the Rocks," directed by Joe Morton and starring Cady Huffman, premiered July 26 at the Stony Brook Film Festival. According to Playbill.com, Craig Lucas' "The Dying Gaul," starring Campbell Scott, "is now in the editing process." And Joel Schumacher's film version of "The Phantom of the Opera" will have its New York City premiere on Dec. 12.

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