Filming is still more than a week away but downtown Ladysmith is buzzing with excitement as advance set crews work to transform storefronts in preparation for the eight days of shooting for the Sonic the Hedgehog movie.
Paramount Pictures’ picked the town with its charming ‘Americana’ architecture as the fictitious setting for hero town Green Hills. The Sonic movie stars James Marsden, Jim Carrey and Tika Sumpter and upwards of $7-million is budgeted as part of the local shoot.
Among the more dramatic of the changes taking place on the south end of the downtown core is the painting of the Bancroft building occupied by Nancy’s Fashions, April’s Tack Boutique and Top Drawer Consignment Store, where owners Sherry Coppick and Roxane Plourde couldn’t be more supportive about the film and its blue furry lead actor.
“We’re really exciting about Sonic. We feel it’s nothing but a good thing,” said Coppick.
Top Drawer’s owners will take a two week stay-cation as the store becomes a donut shop and a barber shop for the film. A wall is being built inside the store and props brought in to give an authentic appearance from the street during shooting.
Rumour has it that a big fight scene takes place right outside on First Avenue. Some of the most dramatic scenes are expected to take place Sept. 20-23 including a controlled car flip and fire ball.
“We really can’t be open because they’ve got to create some depth in this side of the store so it’s going to look like they’re chairs and things if you look inside,” Plourde said.
Limited parking around downtown would also have made it difficult for clients bringing in clothing to sell but both women don’t seem to mind at all.
“It’s really nothing but a good thing because our clients bring us clothes and it’s one thing to be walking down the street but if you’re going to moving around these (movie) sets it’s just going to be so much nicer to be closed,” Coppick added.
“Sonic must really like us - he wants us to have two weeks off and rest up.”
Next door, the Bayview Framing & Art already has the crest of the sheriff’s office coat of arms centred on the front window.
Film producers had discussed the idea with business owners Wanda Dombrowski and her husband Bruce Whittington of possibly using the inside of the store as an actual set for the film.
However, in the end, an island in the centre of the store would have been a big task to remove and a set will instead be made off-site.
Bayview Framing will only have to close for one day (Sept. 14) and early a couple of the other days for filming.
Whittington said while he doesn’t expect much in the way of direct economic spin off like some of the restaurants and coffee shops in town feeding film crews and actors there are definitely still benefits.
“I think there are several good things about it, one is the owner of this building gets a paint job and I think the last time this building was painted was two movies ago - that’s expensive for a building owner. Other buildings are getting painted and that’s going to freshen them up too,” he said
There’s even a potential for tourism with Sonic’s global fan base.
“The basis for this film has kind of a following so it may get a life of its own and people may come just to see us,” he said.
Whittington and others who spoke with the Chronicle have also expressed the ongoing positive engagement from the production crew and their willingness to satisfy the questions and concerns of Ladysmith’s small businesses owners.
Some of the tenants of apartments on First Avenue have also been given food vouchers to use at local restaurants.
“It’s a big film crew …they have the resources to be much more engaged with people and it shows and that’s been good,” Whittington said.
Nancy’s Clothing and Bouma Meats are among the storefronts that won’t change and appear in the movie.
Owner of the butcher shop, Paul Bouma said the store has been in a couple of the films shot in Ladysmith in the past but it’s still exciting this time around.
“When you get your name in a movie that’s not so bad. I was happy they’re using it,” he said, looking over as his storefront window as a new sticker was being applied on Wednesday morning. “My front window for 18 days, I can’t use it. They’re going to decorate it and it’s got to stay that way because when they do their different shots it’s got to look the exact same way.”
Bouma likes the look of the new sign but pictures were also taken just in case he wants to go back to the original.
“It’s looking pretty good. The old sign was up for 10 years so it was maybe time for a change,” he said.
He is also expecting to keep regular business hours when filming isn’t taking place.
“I’m kind of glad that it’s not during the summer. Kids are back in school so you don’t have that impact that you lose from holidayers. September is perfect,” he said.
“They’re going to look at what sales you might have lost and help everybody out.”