'Transformers 3' shuts down Mich. Ave.

July 16, 2010 (CHICAGO)

The Magnificent Mile was transformed into a Hollywood set as one of Chicago's most famous avenues was blocked off for filming of the movie 'Transformers 3.'

Thousands of movie fans gathered behind the barricades to watch the action Friday. However, drivers were being warned to avoid the area, which will be closed for the entire weekend.

Until Monday morning, the Magnificent Mile is closed from Randolph to Ontario. Lower Michigan Avenue will be closed between Hubbard and Wacker from 8 p.m. Friday to 5 a.m. Monday. Filming will also affect some downtown bus routes, as well. In addition to Michigan Avenue, parts of Hubbard, Kinzie, Dearborn, State and Wabash will be closed for several hours over the weekend.

Movie crews turned Michigan Avenue into a wreck Friday. Flames and smokes were part of a fight sequence for the movie.

The actual Transformers will be added later with special effects, but the damage is what Chicago-area residents and visitors see.

Devoted Transformer fans flocked to scenes on Michigan Avenue.

"It's fantastic. It's really, really neat. I mean, this is really an experience for me and my grandson," said Calvetta Parker.

"He was excited to see this. He's been up since like 2:30 this morning," Bill Dudley said. "This is a fantastic movie, and to see it live like this, this is crazy. It's great," Bill Dudley.

Due to all of the effects and scenery, the city of Chicago shut down Michigan Avenue from Ontario to Wacker. Pedestrians had to walk on Lower Michigan Avenue to get around the film scene safely.

Some business owners said business has been good with people checking out the film shoot.

"Since this morning, when it started, we got busy right away," said Bill Sianis of the Billy Goat Tavern. "Ever since we opened the doors, we were busy. I think we got people interested in seeing what's going on upstairs."

Crowd control staffers shooed people away from taking pictures in some areas and directed people to alternate routes, but that did not stop people from getting photographs and checking out the scene, albeit sometimes from a distance.

The shooting schedule and street closures also are impacting Magnificent Mile businesses, but ABC7 is told businesses will be open over the weekend, despite the closures.

A full day of shooting is reportedly on tap for Saturday.

Representatives from the city's film office say they knew the closures could be an inconvenience.

"There's been months of outreach to local businesses, in fact, all businesses will remain open despite the fact they are shooting here on the Michigan Avenue bridge," said Rich Moskal, Chicago Film Office director.

"I've never seen Lower Wacker so busy. So, people are able to access. People all around the city are letting people through to conduct business and business on the avenue, and so hopefully, it isn't too much of a business interruption," said Peter Simoncelli of the Greater North Michigan Avenue Assoc.

Passengers boarding Chicago's First Lady Cruises and Mercury Cruises were warned about the detour. Signs posted warned that during the shoot routes and times are subject to change.They two companies can say they see 2,000 passengers on a typical summer day.

"It'll be a little bit of confusion. They should plan to come early, but I think things will work out. We'll have to wait and see," said Capt. Bob Agra of Chicago's First Lady Cruises.

Some business owners admit the filming has caused some inconveniences, as do some hotel guests. There are three hotels in the path of the weekend shoot, and some visitors have had to go on Lower Michigan to move about.

Nearby merchants have been dealt with a similar situation before when Oprah Winfrey shot her season-opening show Michigan Avenue, also closing a section of the Magnificent Mile.

Some see the attention as an investment, especially when Transformers 3 hits movie theatres.

"Think about the people who will want to come to the city of Chicago and see where this is actually being filmed and recreated it in their own minds. This is pretty special," said Simoncelli.

The detour is working in favor of Cafe Descartes on Michigan Avenue. Thirsty movie fans have been dropping in all day.

The cafe owner said business was up 50 percent.

"I love it. I think it's interesting to see all kinds of people, to see people come from away. It's nice weather. Everything is so perfect," said Arshad "Sony" Javid of Cafe Descartes.

ABC7 is told Cafe Descartes is planning to stay open late for movie fans.

Earlier this week, skydivers were seen parachuting over Millennium Park in preparation for the film shoot.

"I think it's awesome. I don't know how they will clean it all up, but it looks great," said Brad Meister.

"I can see it on a huger scale than what I thought it would be originally," said Myszak. "All the rubble is Styrofoam and not real stuff. It is actually pretty cool."

On Thursday night, crowds gathered by the barricades on the Michigan Avenue Bridge to catch a glimpse of the stars of the movie.

This is just the latest location for the sci-fi action flick. Last weekend, several streets in the Loop were closed, and LaSalle Street was turned into a virtual war zone for the movie. Then crews headed north to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where shooting took place near the Milwaukee Art Museum.

City officials estimate that having "Transformers 3" shoot in Chicago will bring about $20 million into the local economy. Moskal says precautions have been taken at all the shoot locations around the city to prevent permanent damage.

"All the special effects, all the pyrotechnics, all of the stunts, in fact, were rehearsed and performed prior to them going on location for the benefit of the Chicago Fire Department and the Chicago Bureau of Fire Prevention, just to do tests to make sure whatever materials they were using, that there wouldn't be any permanent damage because of it," he said.

Several of the major stunts, including fire balls and skydivers, will take place Saturday and Sunday. Crews will be shooting on the Michigan Avenue Bridge above the Chicago River, as well as performing aerial stunts near Trump Tower.

"We're talking about flashy events. The police and fire department want to maintain a safe perimeter making sure no one gets injured," said Moskal.

The Transformers movies are known for their special effects. The specifics are being kept under wraps, but fans in Milwaukee said they saw posters of automobiles and a classic car on site.

Among the many locations around Chicago, Transformers scenes have also been shot at the historic Rosenwald building at 46th and Michigan.

"We found out from the children they've been doing it for three or four days, up and down the streets doing explosions," said Mark Allen of the Save The Rosenwald Coalition.

On Thursday, a group voiced concerns about shooting in the Rosenwald.

The shoot comes after a campaign to preserve the building that was developed in the 1920s by Julius Rosenwald, the president of Sears, Roebuck and Co. It was then called the Michigan Boulevard Garden Apartments and was home to famous African-American Chicagoans.

The complex is now vacant and needs renovation.

The group fighting for its preservation says they were shocked to learn that the aging building had been used for a film shoot.

"We should not have found out about it at the tail end of the process. We should have been included in the process," said Allen.

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