Reluctant Macy's Rains on New 'Miracle on 34th Street's' Parade

"Miracle on Michigan Avenue"?

Well, the movie won't be titled that, but that's where the remake of "Miracle on 34th Street" is taking place--half a continent away from New York at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, of all places, sources said.

And as if that weren't sacrilege enough, the Grinch also came early for John Hughes, whose Hughes Entertainment is producing the movie. He was unable to interest Macy's Department Store--at Herald Square (on 34th Street) in Manhattan--in participating in the remake of the classic 1947 production that has become a Christmastime viewing ritual alongside "It's a Wonderful Life."

No matter that Macy's is integral to the story of "Miracle," in which Edmund Gwenn was so convincing as Kris Kringle that cynical little Natalie Wood came to believe in Santa Claus. The retailer just wasn't interested.

"We feel the original stands on its own and could not be improved upon," said Laura Melillo, a spokeswoman for Macy's.

The tip-off came last week when an unseasonable parade of Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade-like balloons (actually, rather smaller versions of them, said one observer) were spotted floating down Central Park West carried by young adults in green and red costumes. A closer look in at the action in front of the cameras revealed a two-shot with Sir Richard Attenborough talking to Elizabeth Perkins.

In the remake for 20th Century Fox, Attenborough takes the part of Kringle (which won Gwenn an Oscar) and Perkins has Maureen O'Hara's role as the mom and Macy's advertising executive. Six-year-old Mara Wilson, the littlest child in "Mrs. Doubtfire," fills Wood's shoes.

Back in 1946, Macy's allowed director George Seaton to roam the store's hallways to capture the holiday shopping hustle and bustle. There is unconfirmed speculation that Macy's did not want to cooperate this go-round because it is nearly $6 billion in debt and didn't want to be in the spotlight until its expected emergence from bankruptcy next year. The retailer's spokeswoman declined to comment further.

So Macy's will be known as Coles Department Store in the remake, which is being directed by Les Mayfield. As for the rest of the New York settings--there aren't any. After the parade shots were finished, the whole production moves to Chicago, Hughes' hometown, this week.

And instead of doing some location filming in a Macy's stand-in--notably Marshall Field--the crew will instead transform the ballroom of what is now the School of the Art Institute of Chicago into sales space with props supplied by Marshall Field. Other Macy's scenes will be shot on sound stages.

"We wanted it to be 'Miracle on State Street,' " said store spokeswoman Laura Sandall, commenting on past discussions with Hughes to film at Marshall Field's flagship store on State Street. "We hoped they'd film here."

The school's ballroom is described by the institute's public affairs director Joyce Rowe as "very ornate" and having gilded high ceilings and stained glass windows facing Michigan Avenue. The golden Hollywood era of Macy's, apparently, is over.

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