A bustling community of dog parks, gastropubs and historic lofts where people actually walk to work?
That's hardly the typical depiction of Los Angeles, at least in the movies.
Yet that is precisely the unconventional image of L.A. that emerges in the upcoming romantic comedy "About Last Night," a remake of the 1986 film starring Rob Lowe, Demi Moore, James Belushi and Elizabeth Perkins that explored the world of dating among four singles.
Though the original movie was based on a David Mamet play set in Chicago, the contemporary remake joins the 2009 film "(500) Days of Summer" as one of the first to depict the revitalized L.A. downtown, which is enjoying a commercial and cultural renaissance fueled by an influx of residents and merchants. The Screen Gems movie, which stars popular comedian Kevin Hart, premieres Feb. 14.
"About Last Night" was shot almost entirely downtown, showcasing such locations as the Santa Fe Lofts, Casey's Irish Pub, Broadway Bar and Cole's. The $13-million movie also was the first to shoot in the new Grand Park.
"L.A. has not been known for its downtown urban life, but there is really a resurgence," said producer Will Packer, who lives in Atlanta and is best known for the 2012 comedy "Think Like a Man." "There are lofts, gastropubs and night life — a real culture here now — so it felt like the right time to showcase that. We wanted the film to be an organic slice of life, like being on a street corner and seeing the way young people interact, drink, party and eat."
The "About Last Night" remake filmed over seven weeks in the fall of 2012. With the exception of Dodger Stadium, the entire movie was shot within a 10-block radius of the corner of 6th and Main streets, where the crew had set up a base camp.
That's highly unusual in that most movies film at multiple locations spread miles apart. But selecting locations within one small area enabled producers to keep transportation and other costs down.
"If we couldn't walk to it from 6th and Main, it was out of range," said Brian O'Neill, the film's location manager.
One of the principal locations was the Santa Fe Lofts, where Danny, the lead character played by Michael Ealy, lives. His friend Bernie (played by Hart) lives nearby in the historic Pacific Electric Building.
Filming in one area for several weeks can be risky. The downtown area already is heavily filmed, occasionally prompting complaints from local residents and merchants about disruptions caused by crews.
With that in mind, O'Neill sought to partner with local businesses such as Casey's and Broadway Bar by giving them roles in the film — as themselves.
"I reached out to the local community and approached them with the idea of: 'Do you want to be a partner in this movie? We're going to shoot your property as is,'" O'Neill said.
Screen Gems, a label of Sony Pictures Entertainment, used a similar strategy in the making of "Think Like a Man," which filmed in Culver City as well as various locations downtown.
Aside from buying goodwill, the approach also has financial benefits: Merchants will typically reduce what they charge to rent out their facility in exchange for the marketing benefit they expect to get from the movie exposure.
O'Neill approached the owners of the Main Street pet store Pussy & Pooch to film a scene, set in front of the store, in which two characters decide to adopt a puppy.
"We were able to share our marketing value," O'Neill said.
Casey's Irish Pub on Grand Avenue gets especially prominent treatment in the film as a local watering hole.
Jeff Marino, director of restaurants for 213 Ventures, which manages Casey's, Cole's and Broadway Bar, said the big screen exposure will be good for business. "These guys were great," he said of the film crew. "Once the movie comes out on Valentine's Day and people see the Casey's and Cole's signs, people are going to want to come in."
"I'm really excited to see it come out," said Steven Allen, a manager at Cole's, the famed French dip sandwich restaurant on 6th Street. "It's a nice perk to be in the film. People will come back after the film to have one of our old-fashioned French dip sandwiches or a pickleback."
Representing locations as themselves also gave the film more authenticity, Packer said.
"We wanted to showcase iconic locations, so it was important that we didn't shoot the Broadway Bar and call it something else," said Packer, who also was a producer of Universal's current hit film "Ride Along," in which Hart co-stars with Ice Cube.
"About Last Night" is the second of three Packer movies filmed in L.A. with Screen Gems since 2011. "The Wedding Ringer," which also stars Hart, filmed on location in L.A. and Santa Monica, including at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel, the Los Angeles Athletic Club on 7th Street and the Hollywood United Methodist Church. That film is due out in 2015.
Although "About Last Night" did not qualify for a California film tax credit, there was never any doubt it would film in L.A., executives said.
"We felt we had the base and the know-how to get it shot in Los Angeles," said Glenn Gainor, executive producer on the film and president of production for Screen Gems. "We wanted to celebrate downtown."