Chicago TV & Film Prods Have Raked In $1B In 5 Yrs

cinespaceChicago has gradually been turning itself into a sort of satellite Hollywood over the past few years and according to the mayor's office, it's paying off: the city has generated more than $1.3 billion from film and commercial production since 2011.  Mayor Emanuel, prolific NBC producer Dick Wolf and other executives announced the economic boost in a press conference Wednesday, playing up the fact that the city is currently home to eight full-time and two part-time local shows.

By filming in Chicago, shows like Chicago Med, Empire, Shameless, Chicago P.D. and Chicago Fire have employed thousands of crew members and extras while injecting neighborhoods around the city with new business, Emanuel said.  With new shows like Amazon's "Patriot" and Fox's "The Exorcist" TV reboot getting underway in town, local TV filming has more than doubled in 2016.

"We are proud that Chicago continues to serve as a destination for filming and commercial activity, due to our talented residents, state-of-the-art facilities, and affordable services—not to mention our iconic skyline and the rich character and diversity of Chicago’s neighborhoods," Emanuel said in a statement.

The TV and movie boom hasn't been without controversy.  There have been investigations into shady grants given to Cinespace, the North Lawndale studio where "Chicago Fire" and other series are shot; and filming-induced traffic headaches.  Just last week the creators of "Empire" were targeted in a third lawsuit, this time by former residents at the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center.

Of course, the city would argue the advantages make up for any issues.  According to NBC, they will have locally employed more than 1,300 people and spent more than $150 million in wages in the city this season alone.  The Illinois Film Office, too, cited substantial gains for the region: in 2015, the office saw thousands of locals employed and estimated $330 million in Illinois spending, 18 percent more than the previous year—likely due, in part, to the 30 percent tax credit the office extends to producers for using Illinois crews and services.

Movies that use Chicago as their backdrop have seen an uptick as well, with everything from Batman V. Superman to Divergent to the just-released Obama love story Southside With You taking advantage of the city's production perks.  And as long as the city's neighborhoods and nuances continue to inspire TV- and movie-makers (or, you know, web parody producers), we don't expect the cameras to stop rolling anytime soon.