Upcoming ‘Selma’ filming expected to disrupt business on the Square
by Nikki Wiley
May 13, 2014 04:00 AM | 8283 views | 10 10 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Gary Leake, above, owner of Johnnie MacCracken’s Celtic Pub, says his business will lose three days’ worth of revenue when the road in front of his bar is closed while ‘Selma,’ a biopic about Martin Luther King Jr., is filmed on the Marietta Square later this month.<br>Staff/Kelly J. Huff
Gary Leake, above, owner of Johnnie MacCracken’s Celtic Pub, says his business will lose three days’ worth of revenue when the road in front of his bar is closed while ‘Selma,’ a biopic about Martin Luther King Jr., is filmed on the Marietta Square later this month.
Staff/Kelly J. Huff
A copy of the letter sent to local business owners regarding the filming of the movie 'Selma.'<br>Staff/Kelly J. Huff
A copy of the letter sent to local business owners regarding the filming of the movie 'Selma.'
Staff/Kelly J. Huff
MARIETTA — Even though big stars will be on Marietta Square later this month, some restaurateurs say prospects are dim for the little guy.

“Selma,” a biopic about Martin Luther King Jr., is set to be filmed on the Square on May 23 and again May 28 and May 29, according to a letter sent to local business owners. Entertainment media outlets have reported the film will be produced by Oprah and Brad Pitt.

A portion of filming will take place inside the Marietta-Cobb Museum of Art and outside on Winters and Anderson streets.

Roads would need to be closed for some of the filming, including Atlanta Street in front of Johnnie MacCrackens, The Local and other businesses on the block off the Square between Anderson and Roswell streets.

Private parking lots on that section of the Square would also be closed.

Gary Leake, owner of Johnnie MacCracken’s Celtic Pub, said he expects to see a significant decline in business when filming begins.

“If they have nowhere to park, they’re not coming here,” Leake said. “They’re literally locking down the whole street.”

Jim Tidwell, owner of The Local at the corner of Atlanta and Roswell streets, said he’s also expecting his patrons to be inconvenienced.

“I understand it may be good for the city, but it’s not good for our business,” Tidwell said.

Leake is also concerned for his employees, who will take a hit in pay and tips when “Selma” takes over part of downtown Marietta. Leake said he has several single mothers on his staff, and he can’t afford to compensate them for lost wages if few paying customers make their way into his restaurant.

“These people don’t have financial means to weather a week without work,” Leake said.

But Leake maintains he understands the notoriety the film industry brings to Marietta and appreciates the film’s message.

He pointed to the filming of “Dumb and Dumber To” on the Square in October, which brought acting heavyweights Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels to Marietta and put the city in the spotlight.

The message of “Selma” hits home for Leake, who hung a photo of King accepting the Nobel Peace Prize in his bar just a few days before the film’s location scout approached him about the street closures.

“Martin Luther King Jr. has consequences for an Irish pub because of the implications of religious freedom,” Leake said.

Requests for comment from the film company were not answered Monday.

No policy to compensate businesses

The shooting of “Selma” won’t be the first time Johnnie MacCracken’s has seen film crews. A VH1 pilot titled “Hindsight” closed the bar down for two days in November when large trucks and carts filled with filming equipment lined the parking spaces on both sides of Atlanta Street in front of the pub.

“If you’ve never done this before, and most of us haven’t, you’re very flattered,” Leake said.

But for “Hindsight,” the bar was compensated. Neighboring businesses, however, didn’t receive any cash for their troubles or loss of business.

“Now I understand how they felt,” Leake said.

Georgia has become increasingly popular for movie filming with the introduction of state tax breaks, and some local governments aren’t equipped to handle the demand that seemed to spike overnight, Leake said.

“They turned this into a science, so to speak, on how they do this,” Leake said, referring to the film industry.

Requests to close city streets are funneled through the Marietta Parks, Recreation and Tourism Department directed by Rich Buss. He said applicants who want to shut down roads are required to survey businesses that would be affected, but they don’t necessarily have to get permission from those business owners.

The city is compensated for time spent closing streets, public parking lots that are closed and salaries for off-duty police officers who direct traffic. Buss said the city has not yet worked out exactly how much it will charge for the filming of “Selma.”

Formal complaints lodged by impacted business owners can be filed in his office, Buss said, but there aren’t any policies spelling out how businesses can be compensated for any loss of revenue. Buss said he has received no formal complaints.

“There’s no specific policy that regulate that other than the fact that we need to have happy business owners,” Buss said.

Mayor says concerns legit

Mayor Steve Tumlin gave credence to Leake’s concerns about losing business due to street closures.

“I think that’s a legitimate thing to address,” Tumlin said. “I personally don’t have the solution.”

Marietta is “on the map” because of the ambiance of its historic downtown, he said, but there are challenges the city faces in accommodating both the film industry and local business owners.

“The Square is so popular, and there are people (who) make their livelihood from it,” Tumlin said.

City policies don’t deal with impacts of private businesses, but Tumlin said the city should “look at the individuals who make sacrifices.”

“If they get out of the habit of coming to your place, they might not ever come back,” Tumlin said. “(Leake) has a legitimate concern.”

Tumlin raised concerns about an unrelated request to close city streets at a City Council meeting late last month. Organizers of the Chalkfest event want to shut down North Park and West Park square beginning at 2 p.m. on a Friday through Sunday in October.

The event began last year, but organizers hope October’s event will draw more artists. They also plan to begin the festival on Friday evening and say time is needed that afternoon to block off sections of the road to prepare spaces for vendors and chalk artists.

“I’m complaining in a very similar vein,” said Tumlin who works at the Smith, Tumlin, McCurley and Patrick on Church Street off the Square.

He raised objections to shutting down the road at last month’s meeting, maintaining employees who work on the Square or at the nearby Cobb government complex, along with merchants and restaurants in downtown Marietta, would be inconvenienced.

“It’s the closing North Park Square and West Park Square that were my reasons,” Tumlin said. “And that’s purely traffic.”

City Council will vote on the Chalkfest street closures at its meeting set for 7 p.m. Wednesday at City Hall, 205 Lawrence St. Council members do not have to approve the closures associated with the filming of “Selma.”

Comments-icon Post a Comment
Old school May retta
May 14, 2014
Just act like its a ice storm and get over it.
Mr. Rogers
May 14, 2014
I have this great idea about how to film the obvious mega epic, "Selma." Film it in of all places Selma, Alabama ! Problem solved. At least that hack antiwhite racist Spike Lee isn't producing it.
May 13, 2014
When it's Jim Carey and a "Dumb and Dumber" movie, it's fun and festive.

When it's a movie about a black leader produced by a black woman, businesses are "disrupted."

Note to MDJ editor: This is 2014, not 1914.
Nameless bastard
May 13, 2014
This isn't about anything but loss of business the city owns the streets and parking and they rent them out for $250 a minute at a cost to all who make a living on the square selling service and goods . the production crew offered us less than that for a whole day of business loss

We are all new to the filming industry but we are getting wise to the game .we all seen a very big impact from dumb and dumber and other productions it cost us lots of money in lost revenue if Oprah or any other producers come to film here be it a civil rights movie or a comedy they need to think about the little guy

By taking all the parking and blocking foot traffic and the roads it effects all of the business on the square except the city and they get PAID $250 a MINUTE

Clayton Anderson
May 13, 2014
Way to make it a "race" thing. Welcome to 2014 where your views are askew & outdated not to mention no longer welcomed.

And for your ignorant minds information, the businesses were compensated for loss of business with a reasonable amount. The producers of 'Selma' are only offering $200 PER DAY which is only a FRACTION of what a business like MacCrackems pulls in on a daily basis.

But thanks for keeping racism alive & well in the 21st century. I'm sure Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would be very proud of you & your views.
Gary Leake
May 13, 2014
Yes we are in 2014 where racism now comes in the form of the color of money irregardless of whether you are white, black or whatever. It is always so interesting how small business has to bear the burden while we employ 95% of the American Public and we virtually have no voice. So you place Brad Pitt and Oprah into the mix and they can do no wrong? Please join me in 2014 where people like me actually celebrate Dr. King visibly on the walls of my business along with Former Governor Barnes accepting "The JFK Profiles In Courage Award" for having the courage to change our State flag. My children were raised to judge a man or woman on the merits of their "self" not their color or religion.....The loss of revenue from my business for just those 3 days is $16,000! That is the issue, period.
May 13, 2014
Dont play the race card here. In previous cases many of the businesses were compensated directly. Here, they are not. The problem is that in addition to closing the streets, they are also taking the parking lots on the sides and in back which will prevent people from even using the back entrances. 3 days with no revenue is tough for any business.
Free Thinker
May 13, 2014
Businesses were compensated during Dumb and Dumber To. If you worked on the Square, you'd know that. The concern is over employee and business compensation for having to shut down. Kindly, leave your racial innuendo at the door...
May 29, 2014

Pay the businesses
May 13, 2014
I would think the city would be getting paid by the filming industry. That money needs to go to the businesses. I don't think anyone ever watches a movie and wonders where it was filmed, because they are going to visit that town.
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