Newport Beach businesses upset as filming shuts down

A recent request to shoot scenes for a feature film at Newport Beach’s Balboa Fun Zone — which required the temporary closure of the family entertainment center — has led some business owners to seek changes to the film ordinance of the city.

Local officials, working with third-party liaison FilmLA, had secured permits for a production company to film scenes across Newport Beach for “Jesus Revolution,” a film about the life of the Orange County pastor. Greg Laurie with comedian Jim Gaffigan, slated for release in 2023.

To accommodate filming, the Fun Zone is expected to be closed to foot traffic on Friday and Saturday.

But a handful of business owners who run largely touristy stores and services a block away say the closure is poorly timed — which comes on the last weekend of the Spring Break rush — and could affect their results.

A card warning of a three-day closure to foot traffic at the Balboa Fun Zone was given to some nearby merchants, but not all.

(Don Leach/Times Community News)

“We’re all going to lose a ton of money on this,” Tony George, longtime owner of personalized t-shirt and Surfside Pick Your Print gift shop, said Thursday.

George maintains that he and other surrounding business owners received little notice that a film crew intended to close part of the boardwalk one weekend when regular tourists still on spring break threw their sights on Newport Beach.

“The way I found out was that a manager offered me to rent part of my parking lot,” said George, who raised his concerns with the town hall. “The city responds by saying, ‘We’re sorry, but it’s too late.’ It doesn’t help anyone. »

Surfside Pick Your Print is one of the few businesses one block from the Fun Zone, along a segment of Balboa Parkway that was not closed for filming. While businesses in the area have been offered a refund for the closure, owners say adjacent stores have not received any compensation.

Visitors enjoy the Newport Beach Fun Zone on Thursday, April 7, 2022.

Visitors enjoy the Newport Beach Fun Zone on Thursday. Local businesses have been given short notice about a movie being filmed nearby, which they say will affect revenue on a busy weekend.

(Don Leach/Times Community News)

Armando Terrones owns the waterfront snack stand Balboa Beach Treats. He bought the business in 2019 and endured two terrible years during the pandemic, but said things were only just starting to look up when earlier this week he received a little postcard telling him about the shoot. .

“It’s literally my first almost real spring break. According to everyone, it was the big week,” Terrones said Thursday. “It was a bit of a shame to find out it was happening now.”

Ranjit Mac, owner of the Blue Sails gift shop for 23 years, wants to know why she and others haven’t participated in any discussions or been given the chance to suggest alternative shooting days.

“They need to set up a meeting with all the business owners and figure out when is the best time to give people cinema,” she said. “We tried to send [the city] emails and called them – they said we couldn’t do anything because it didn’t concern you.

Ranjit Mac, owner of Blue Sails gift shop, checks out a customer Thursday, April 7, 2022.

Ranjit Mac, left, owner of the Blue Sails gift shop, called and emailed Newport Beach City Hall to raise concerns about a nearby filming closure that she said would hurt her business during a peak period.

(Don Leach/Times Community News)

Shooting notification requirements are handled on a case-by-case basis, according to city spokesman John Pope. When a crew wants to film in a residential area, a 500-foot notification radius is a common approval requirement, but in commercial areas, these mandates are less clearly defined.

Although a page on the Newport Beach website says the city can require a film crew to formally notify areas affected by a production, the ordinance does not specify notification guidelines.

“For businesses, we would look at what is a reasonable area to notify the closure area and the people who would be impacted by the closure,” Pope said. “The order allows staff to make that call.”

At a March 22 meeting, Councilwoman Diane Dixon asked council to revisit the city’s movie ordinance and compare it to laws in similar cities to see if improvements could be made. The motion passed unanimously.

In addition to receiving an email from George, Dixon was contacted in January by residents of the Balboa Peninsula, who complained about another filming project that lasted for months.

“After digging deeper, I realized that we haven’t reviewed our shooting order for a while,” she said Thursday. “I know the city is working hard to meet filming requests. [But] we need to be aware of the impacts on residents and business owners.

For cartoonist artist Tracy Buck, who has been writing portraits on the boardwalk for 25 years, a little knowledge would be appreciated.

“I would like to get a general overview on something like this,” he said.

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