Doubling 2003’s $25.6 million for features/TV is this year’s IFO goal

Feature business last year in Illinois was not only a heckuva lot better than it first appeared ? and it also looks like it’s going to significantly improve in 2004.

Clocking in at $25.6 million in direct expenditures, revenues for 2003 dipped only $2 million from 2002’s $27.6 million. Using the 2.5 multiplier, $45 million flowed into the local economy from movies.

Less than half the total came from the $12 million spent by the just-released “Barber Shop II,” the only feature filmed in its entirety in Chicago last summer.

Added to this were three weeks each of “Surviving Christmas,” “Proof,” and “The Jamie Kennedy Experiment;” 10 days of “Shall We Dance?” one week of “I, Robot” “Cheaper by the Dozen,” and “The In-Laws,” and unknown days for “Doubting Riley,” and “Crab Apple Orchard” that was filmed in Champaign.

Unspecified expenditures contributing to the mix came from some 40 TV shows, such as quarterly “ER” visits, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” “Elimidate,” the pilot for “Fame,” “Dance Fever,” the “Ambush” makeover show, the “Street Smarts” game show, and the reality series “Starting Over.”

IFO director Brenda Sexton predicts $50 million worth of business for 2004. It could happen, although it’s too early in the year to say for sure since even the firmest of commitments can shatter overnight. In addition to “The Weather Man,” with a local budget of $12 million, and “Ocean’s 12,” a definite for spring, other possibilities are Warner Bros.’ “The Intimidation Game” and independents “Under the City” and “Southside.” And “Batman” flies in sometime this summer, too.

Sexton didn’t reveal details when she told Crain’s Chicago Business about a major $35 million feature she said will film here this year, so it’s unknown whether $35 million was the gross budget, or direct expenditures accruing to Illinois.

Location scouting is the busiest in months, an activity attributed to interest in Illinois’ wage tax credit incentive. By converting scouting missions into real production schedules could push the early $50 million projection much higher as the year progresses.