The Jekyll Island Authority this week approved an agreement with Twentieth Century Fox for filming of X-Men: First Class. Producers also have notified Tybee Island officials they were releasing the city from a permit that had been granted in September to shoot along the North Beach.
Producers earlier in the month had reached a tentative agreement with Jekyll and agreed last week to the release of the permit, Tybee Island City Manager Diane Schleicher said.
"We've really worked hard to make Tybee available, but I think it's more of a creative issue," she said. "We've done everything we can do, so if they change their mind, we'll certainly talk to them again."
Filming is expected to begin on Jekyll later this month and is scheduled to run to the end of the year. Producers will pay the authority $16,000 for use of a 4.5-acre beach area east of Beachview Drive and the fishing pier at Clam Creek. That fee is established as long as producers at the end of filming agree to provide 375 cubic yards of beach-quality sand at the beach location, according to the signed agreement. The sand is worth a film credit of up to $15,000, the agreement states.
Tybee and city of Savannah officials had been working with "X-Men" producers for months to scout locations and believed they had won out over sites considered in Louisiana and North Carolina, said Jay Self, Savannah's director of tourism and film services. Toward the end of the scouting, however, a producer reviewing the locations on Google Earth thought the water near Jekyll looked bluer.
Chris Petrikin, of Fox corporate communications, said Jekyll ultimately was chosen for of its "visual aesthetic," abundance of crew and equipment resources, travel access and housing availability.
Producers also initially had hoped they could assist planned renovations on Jekyll Island by helping to demolish the old convention center as part of filming, said M. H. "Woody" Woodside, president of the Brunswick-Golden Isles Chamber of Commerce.
Authority officials had concerns about existing contracts on the convention center, so that aspect of filming wasn't realized.
The Glynn County shoot also appears to have ended the studio's interest in filming at Thunderbolt Marine. Ralph Heil, the president and chief operating officer of the ship- and yacht-refitting complex, said a caravan of studio officials scouted the yard and asked about bringing in some 60 trucks and 250 people.
"They got us a little excited in the beginning as a first foray into this," he said. "We had the economic development officials and the governor's office all encouraging us to do everything we could to cooperate with them."
With good reason.
Woodside estimates that with hotel-room rentals and other expenses, Glynn County will see about $5 million in revenue.
Producers also were interested in whether Thunderbolt Marine could assist with some of the boats needed for filming. Heil passed along names for owners of two vintage yachts, and there also was discussion about whether his employees could build half of a yacht that would be hauled out on a barge for some scenes.
"They did leave open the possibility they could come back," he said.
Savannah and Tybee snared two big studio shoots last year, with the Miley Cyrus movie "The Last Song" filmed predominantly on Tybee and the Robert Redford-directed "The Conspirator" in Savannah.
Jekyll has participated in big movies, too. When "The Legend of Bagger Vance" and "Glory" filmed in Savannah, scenes for both were shot on Jekyll, Woodside said.
Despite the loss of "X-Men," Self noted, one positive for the Savannah area is the city recently landed a one-day November shoot on River Street for an unidentified movie that will run on the ABC Family channel.
And one bright spot for Tybee is that the canceled film permit has again opened North Beach for weddings.
Fall is a popular time for weddings there, but city officials were having to tell couples the less-preferred south end of the beach was the only option. One bride, Schleicher said, was trying to coordinate having guests shuttled from one end of the beach to the other by trolley. When producers realized the ongoing imposition, Schleicher said, they released the permit Friday.
Like Heil, she promised ongoing cooperation should producers need to return here.
"We've been patient and we'll still be patient if they decide they want to come back after all," she said. "No hard feelings."