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Movie Flies Away After Bumpy Landing in L. B.

September 17, 1987|ROXANA KOPETMAN | Times Staff Writer

LONG BEACH — Three men who believe they are the Three Wise Men had planned to traipse through downtown on camels next month. Like everyone else, though, they needed a city permit.

But Aaron Spelling Productions found Tuesday that leading camels to Long Beach is easier than getting quick approval from the city fathers. And on Wednesday, a spokeswoman for the film company said Long Beach will not be used as the site for the planned television movie.

"We won't be filming in Long Beach. Not with everything being up in the air," said Lynn Kuwahara, the movie's location manager. "It just wasn't worth waiting for."

The camels and the wise men are part of an ABC Christmas Special which was to be filmed in Lincoln Park, next to City Hall, from Oct. 12 to 17 between 6 p.m. and dawn. On two of those days, the producers wanted to land a helicopter in the park.

The City Council said Tuesday that it saw no problem with that, but instructed the city staff to report back with the details next week, when the council would make a decision.

Kuwahara said that the week's delay would cause problems, so the movie will be made in Los Angeles. She said movie producers had planned on Los Angeles in the first place, but "someone said, 'Try Long Beach because they're getting quite a skyline there.' "

She had also objected to Councilman Edd Tuttle's remark that he wanted assurances that Long Beach would be given credit at the end of the film.

Kuwahara said the production company could not guarantee a credit for Long Beach. "That's up to the network," she explained.

Tuttle had said the city should be given proper credit at the end of the two-hour television movie, "since we're making Long Beach and our beautiful skyline available."

In Avalon on Catalina Island, similar concerns led the City Council there to tentatively approve a law requiring a $5,000 refundable deposit from film makers to ensure that the city be given credit.

City Atty. John Calhoun said Long Beach already has a law mandating such acknowledgment whenever public property is used in a film. However, John Robinson, the city's film coordinator, said the law has never been enforced.

"Word of mouth" about permit delays and insistence that the city be given credit at the end of movies could lead other film makers to stay away from Long Beach, Kuwahara said. Robinson expressed similar concerns.

The Christmas movie is about three men who believe that they are the biblical Three Wise Men. "They ride around on camels in Southern California spreading goodness and joy," Kuwahara said. "It's sort of a 'Miracle on 34th Street.' "

The three camel-riding wise men end up at a tent city for the homeless, and their psychiatrist flies in on a helicopter.

It was, city officials said, the helicopter that caused the problems. A Long Beach ordinance restricts helicopter landings and take-offs to designated heliports.

Calhoun said the council could get around that by approving a resolution permitting temporary use of the park, at Broadway and Pacific Avenue, as a heliport but specifying that it would be for only two days and for filming purposes. Once the resolution was adopted, the film company could have applied for a permit.

Long Beach typically is used several times a week for movies and commercials, Robinson said. This week, for example, Southern Bell Telephone Co. and corn chip commercials are being filmed in local parks, and a television program is scheduled to be shot at the Breakers Hotel, according to Robinson.

Television and movie exposure brings Long Beach dollars and prestige, officials said. The Christmas special, had it been shot in Long Beach, would have brought the city approximately $3,000 per day for the use of public property and streets, City Manager James C. Hankla said.

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