Fifty years ago, the hangar at the South Weymouth Naval Air Station 12 miles south of Boston was filled with attack jets and helicopters.
Today, it’s filled with dozens of workers rapidly building a 35,000-square-foot movie soundstage. Out on runways that once served A-4’s and submarine-hunting blimps, more crews are erecting what will become – with magic help from computerized graphics – a Times Square backdrop where, within days, Columbia Pictures will be in town shooting a remake of “Ghostbusters.” Director Paul Feig's remake of the 1984 smash hit features an all-female team starring Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones and Chris Hemsworth, who have been doing location shoots in Boston this summer.
Outside the hangar, make-believe Army trucks and armored cars and fruit trucks with New York license plates have been put in place for future scenes.
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The Navy shut down the base in 1997, and for a decade afterwards, the towns of Weymouth, Abington, and Rockland battled to get a $1.5 billion redevelopment project launched there, cycling through two developers and little success until LStar Management of Raleigh, N.C., took over the project three months ago.
When Columbia asked, “Who you gonna call?’’ for back-lot shooting near Boston, it turned out it was LStar that got the call.
“Our initial intent was to save the building and use it for indoor sports, but then a few days after we bought the property, Columbia Pictures called and asked us to consider keeping it and using it as a movie studio,’’ LStar president Kyle Corkum said in an interview Monday afternoon. “We have already been contacted by a second major studio for another feature film, and a major television show is also considering us.’’
Corkum said his company has invested about $500,000 to repair the hangar floor, remove graffiti, and replace 2,600 windows that had almost entirely been broken or shot out by vandals. While investors have poured millions of dollars into the new New England Studios at Fort Devens, 33 miles west of Boston, and plans have bubbled for other big-dollar production facilities in Quincy and Plymouth, Corkum said his site’s proximity to Boston and its flexibility as a big, un-built-out space, have proven appealing to many movie and television producers.
Hampered by years of bureaucratic wrangling and the 2008 real estate collapse, Southfield’s earlier owners did manage to finish about 400 townhomes near the South Weymouth MBTA commuter rail station, but not much else. LStar has moved to jump-start momentum for the project with a new street hockey rink that opened two weeks ago, a coming Fenway Green Monster baseball field for youth, and events like Food Truck Rodeos with concerts. LStar expects within weeks to unveil a totally reworked master plan for the site that could include up to 4,000 housing units, mostly for seniors and singles or families without school-aged children, and is in early talks with multiple big companies about building new corporate headquarters campuses along the Bill Delahunt Parkway that provides access to the site from Route 228 in Rockland to Route 18 in Weymouth. They also plan a 10,000-seat stadium that could accommodate professional, college, and school lacrosse and soccer.
Corkum said he can see a flurry of movie-making activity adding to the new momentum for Southfield. “When movies are being made, I think it generates a lot of interest from people in the area who come here to see that, and they'll go to our restaurants and bars and shops,’’ Corkum said. “Main Street will be right behind us here, so it adds life and energy.’’