By Shawn Regan
---- — HAVERHILL — Denzel Washington is coming to Haverhill.
Columbia Pictures is leasing the former Lowe’s building off Route 97 to film the “The Equalizer,” a big-screen adaption of the popular 1980s television series that starred Edward Woodward as a private detective with a mysterious past who doled out vigilante justice.
Mayor James Fiorentini said production crews are already on scene setting up for filming, which he said will take place inside the building this summer.
David Van Dam, the mayor’s aide, said the movie company has rented the property through August and that filming is expected to take place over a four-week period.
“We are expecting this to be a boon for the local economy,” Van Dam said. “They are going to be using local restaurants, caterers and other businesses for gas and supplies.”
Van Dam said the city is hoping to get Washington, an Oscar-winning actor, to participate in a local fundraiser for city schools or some other worthwhile cause while he is here.
“The goal would be to get him to do something or to get the film company to donate time or money to our schools or another great cause,” Van Dam said.
According to published reports, “The Equalizer” has a $50 million budget, including Washington’s $20 million salary, and has an April 2014 release date.
The plot centers on Robert McCall (Washington), a retired intelligence officer, who turns into a vigilante for the helpless. When he decides to help a young hooker (Chloe Moretz), he gets heat from the Russian mafia, and in particular a brutal fixer played by Marton Csokas, (The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring) who has signed on to the play the movie’s villain.
Antoine Fuqua is directing the movie from a screenplay by Richard Wenk, which is based on the CBS TV series, which wrapped in 1989.
The former home improvement store in Haverhill Commons next to the Target store has been vacant since Lowe’s abruptly closed in October 2011.
The mayor recently proposed a zoning change for the site to accommodate a manufacturing company that is interested in moving into the building sometime after the movie shoot wraps up. The property is owned by KGI Properties of Providence.
The last Hollywood movie with scenes shot in Haverhill was the 2009 film “This Side of the Truth,” which starred Jennifer Garner, Rob Lowe and Ricky Gervais. Several scenes for that movie were shot in 2008 at the Merrivista Senior Community assisted-living complex on Water Street.
Haverhill’s historical connection to the movie business goes back to when Louis B. Mayer opened his first theater downtown. Mayer went on to own several other local theaters before moving on to become one of Hollywood’s biggest movie moguls.
In related news, a study released yesterday on the economic impact of the Massachusetts Film Tax Incentive Program found that for every $1 of film tax incentive awarded in 2011, $10 in spending was generated for the Commonwealth. A total of $37.9 million in film tax credits generated $375.3 million in economic output in the year studied. The study, commissioned by the Motion Picture Association of America, also found that the incentive, which began in 2006, was responsible for 2,220 full time equivalent jobs across all industries in Massachusetts in 2011.
“Massachusetts is the latest example of a state that is benefiting tremendously from a thriving local film industry,” said Chris Dodd, chairman of the Motion Picture Association of America and a former Connecticut senator.