By Richard Verrier
6:00 AM PDT, September 11, 2013
Kevin Hart is filming another movie in Los Angeles — with the help of a nearly $3-million state tax break.
The diminutive, fast-talking comedian and actor is starring in a comedy from Screen Gems and Miramax called "The Wedding Ringer," which began filming in Santa Monica and Marina del Rey this week, according to film permits.
Hart plays the owner of a wedding company that helps the groom, played by Josh Gad, find a best man and groomsmen. Ken Howard, president of the performers union SAG-AFTRA, is also starring in the film.
Originally set in Chicago, the script was rewritten for Los Angeles, an unusual reversal of fortune for a city that increasingly is accustomed to seeing filmmakers take their business to New York, Atlanta, Toronto and other cities that have more generous tax credits — and often play the part of L.A.
The change in venue was made possible after producers won a piece of the annual "lottery" that California uses to allocate film tax breaks. Screen Gems was approved for a $2.8-million tax credit for the film, according to the California Film Commission, a significant savings for a movie with a budget of less than $20 million.
"I was excited to shoot this film in Southern California," said Glenn Gainor, who heads physical production for Sony Pictures' Screen Gems. "From the Westside to Marina del Rey and downtown, L.A. is very romantic and lends itself to a film that is focused on wedding activities."
The project also represents the latest venture between Screen Gems and Hart, a top-selling stand-up comedian whose 2011 documentary "Laugh at My Pain" was one of the highest-grossing independent movies of 2011.
Hart also starred in another locally produced Screen Gems movie, the 2012 comedy "Think Like a Man," based on the Steve Harvey book of the same name. "Think Like a Man" filmed mainly in the Culver City area and grossed $91 million in the U.S., fueled partly by Hart's comedic appeal.
The comedian also starred in a sequel, "Think Like a Man Too," that filmed this year in Las Vegas, and another upcoming drama "About Last Night," which is due out in February and was shot mainly at downtown L.A. locations like the Broadway Bar and Cole's legendary French dip restaurant.
"We love working with Kevin," Gainor said. "He's wonderfully funny."
The 38-day film shoot for "The Wedding Ringer" will cover a variety of well-known and historic locations across L.A. County. Locations include the Casa Vertigo, a former Odd Fellows building on Oak Street built in 1923; the banquet room in the Millennium Biltmore Hotel, which was also featured in the 1984 comedy "Ghostbusters;" the Los Angeles Athletic Club on 7th Street; the 4th Street Bridge; and the Hollywood United Methodist Church, where Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) performed at the "Enchantment Under the Sea" dance for the 1985 movie "Back to the Future."
On Monday the crew filmed at a private residence in Mar Vista and at the Museum of Flying in Santa Monica, where Gad's character pretends to sky-dive off one of the planes. On Tuesday the production moved to Marina del Rey, according to a film permit.
"The Wedding Ringer" is the latest among several new features filming in L.A. this quarter. Production days for feature film shoots are up 14% in the third quarter in the L.A. area compared with the same period a year ago, according to permit data reviewed by the Los Angeles Times.
Meanwhile, commercial production shoots are 10% higher than a year ago, while TV activity is down 15%, according to data from FilmL.A. Inc. The figures track filming that occurs on streets and noncertified soundstages in the city and county.
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