More than just a name for a one-day marketing event, the “Simpson-izing of Manhattan” is apt shorthand for Gotham’s newly enlarged role in the movie landscape.
Today’s Simpsonfest is an all-day Fox affair in the heart of the city marking the hit toon’s DVD release. Anyone in Midtown will find it difficult to miss the yellow-jacketed street teams, the “Simpsons on Ice” show at Bryant Park, the giant inflatable Homers and the Empire State Building lit up yellow in the landmark’s first-ever movie tie-in.
The stunt comes on the heels of the weekend’s $77.2 million B.O. launch of “I Am Legend,” which starred Gotham onscreen and off. It caps 2007 as a year when New York — as location, as marketing canvas and as creative wellspring — reached boom levels arguably not seen since at least the 1980s heyday of “Ghostbusters,” Gordon Gekko and Spike Lee.
It isn’t that filmmaking in Gotham or the ad biz have only recently materialized. It’s that the marriage of mass appeal and the ability of large-scale productions to be mounted here has turned Gotham into a reinvigorated production and promotional hotspot.
Once Fox came up with the “Simpsons on Ice” concept and took aim at the Dec. 18 street date, the conclusion was quickly reached that “there’s nothing like New York in the holidays,” said Steve Feldstein, senior VP of corporate and marketing communications at Fox Home Entertainment. “The city lends itself to this kind of stunt because there is plenty of foot traffic, and you can see views of everything.”
The boom in production has meant more jobs for below-the-liners and others. Steiner Studios, which recently hosted the Gotham Awards, is expanding to meet the demand for soundstage space, as is Silvercup.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Film, Theater and Television commissioner Katherine Oliver have both won high marks for leading the city into an era when Hollywood blockbusters and NYU undergrad shorts are hosted on the same turf.
“This stuff doesn’t just happen on its own,” said James Schamus, prexy of Focus Features. “It needs people in the administration who understand the role that film can play in the community.”
A month ago, it was “American Gangster” delivering a megabudget bite of the Apple, and Ridley Scott’s fact-based crime saga about a Harlem druglord might just stay in the conversation through Oscar night.
“That era in New York has fascinated me since I was a student shooting photos,” director Ridley Scott said. “And there’s only one place you can shoot that.”
One might imagine the Tribeca Film Festival considering the pic as a fashionable followup to last year’s promo bonanza, which saw “Spider-Man 3” stage a whirlwind preem in all five boroughs, including a parade in downtown Astoria, Queens.
“Enchanted,” “The Bourne Ultimatum,” “We Own the Night” … the list of pics with Gotham tie-ins was extensive in 2007. And waiting in the wings for next summer, of course, is “Sex & the City,” whose every move has been obsessed over by countless blogs.
The sheer noise of movies in the city was evident this month when a new print of Woody Allen’s “Hannah & Her Sisters” screened at the Film Forum.
Scenes shot 20 years ago, especially those involving Max Von Sydow’s SoHo loft, seemed almost eerie in their depiction of a graffiti-covered, trash-strewn wasteland that is now filled to bursting with hip boutiques and includes Dean & DeLuca.
Even Woody has had to find a new canvas. His next film is a “Manhattan”-esque love letter … to Barcelona.