Atlanta's Mitchell St. Merchants Planning to Protest Hollywood Filmmakers in Their Neighboorhood Sunday

1:12 AM, Dec 11, 2010   |    comments
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ATLANTA, Ga. -- In downtown Atlanta, some Mitchell St. merchants are fighting mad about the movie-makers who are about to take over their neighborhood.

So they're about to take on Universal Pictures and the State of Georgia and City of Atlanta.

They just found out that on Sunday, the producers who are filming the movie The Change Up -- starring Ryan Reynolds and Jason Bateman and Olivia Wilde -- will be shutting down Spring Street, SW, between Trinity Ave. and Martin Luther King, Jr., Dr., as well as the side streets including Mitchell Street. They'll be shooting scenes from 7:00 am to Midnight.

The filming will essentially shut the Mitchell St. businesses for the day, with no compensation from the production company.

Last summer, the producers of the AMC-TV series The Walking Dead compensated them during filming in their neighborhood.

But not these producers.

So, "We're going to party," said Restaurant Owner Paul Luna, "We're going to party on Mitchell Street."

They're going to party no matter how loud they get during the filming outside, offering free food, free clothes, free haircuts, free pet grooming, free brownies and cake -- and offering other free goods and services that the businesses would normally be selling -- for anyone who joins them in their loud festivities.

"We're going to be law-abiding citizens," Luna said, with five of his fellow Mitchell St. business owners standing with him in his restaurant, "Lunacy Black Market."

"Now if people want to shout and scream and bring boom-boxes, I'm not encouraging it, or come in with Harley Davidsons, I mean, we can't stop them," Luna said.

As of Friday night the movie producers had not called back 11Alive News to comment.

The business owners found out about the shut-down of the neighborhood only this past Monday, when notices went up on the streetlight poles. No one, they said, contacted any of them personally.

"No one contacted me, nobody told me anything," said Passhion Turner, who owns a salon, "One Hour Weave," that is always open on Sundays.

"I think it's just straight disrespect," said DeeDee Cocheta, owner of a P.R. and Marketing firm on Mitchell St.  "On Sundays, we have appointments with our clients, we've had these appointments set up for weeks. Now how am I supposed to tell my clients, now, 'I'm going to have to tell you, no, you can't come here?' We set this up, and they're actually from out of town." 

"Sunday is our fabulous day," said David Albert, the owner of the pet grooming business, "The Fabulous Dog." "Sunday is one of our great days, we always open on Sunday."

Others began talking at once, "And it's holiday time... This is our best time of year... It's, all of us, our best time of the year" for business, "I'd like you to ask the folks at Permeter Mall [in the suburban city of Dunwoody just north of Atlanta] how they would feel if they were shut out on Sunday" without any compensation.

After the notices went up on the streetlight poles, Paul Luna went the few blocks east on Mitchell St. to Atlanta City Hall and obtained copies of the permit application, dated Sunday, Dec. 5, that the film's producers had filed in order to get permission to shut down that stretch of Spring St. in front of the Russell Federal Building, as well as the side streets.

Luna questions whether the permit is even valid, because he said the original was not signed and approved by anyone in city government.

The Change Up has been filming at various locations around Atlanta for weeks.

Last month, for example, 11Alive News talked with merchants along Auburn Ave. in northeast Atlanta while the director was filming scenes there [click here to see the news video], and those merchants were supportive, hoping the film would showcase their neighborhood and generate interest, and sales, long term.

Mitchell St. merchants have watched various film makers take over their neighborhood more than once, and they said the compensation from the producers of those projects was crucial, since, according to the merchants, they lost thousands of dollars during the productions, and they have never seen any long-term economic benefit as a result of movie goers seeing their section of Mitchell St. on film.

They're fine with the filmmaking, itself, and they do not dispute that all of the movies being made in Georgia, now, are producing jobs locally, and hundreds of millions of dollars of economic benefit for the economy of the city and state.

But they said this film will produce, for Mitchell St. businesses, only red ink this Sunday.

"It's about being heard, and letting them know that we're merchants here," said Erica Blevins, who owns the salon on Mitchell St. called "Oh! My Nappy Hair."

"Every little so-called day that they think doesn't matter, it really matters to us," Blevins said, "even Sunday."


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