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‘Fast Five’ explosive box office debut reaffirms P.R. as filmmaking destination

Actor Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson during the filming.

“Fast Five,” the latest installment of the “Fast & Furious” movie franchise, which was filmed almost entirely in Puerto Rico last year, raced into theaters last weekend, becoming Hollywood’s best performing film of 2011, with $86.2 million at the box office during its debut.

The solid acceptance of the fast-paced action film helps reaffirm the island’s role as an international filmmaking location, Economic Development and Commerce Secretary José Pérez-Riera said Thursday.

Last summer, Universal Studio set up shop on the island and spent nearly three months rolling the bulk of the high-budget film’s scenes involving its three stars — Paul Walker, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Vin Diesel — in locations ranging from the mountains of Naranjito to the Teodoro Moscoso bridge in San Juan.

In all, the studio pumped $27 million into the local economy to pay for salaries for a 236-person crew, some 13,145 extras and 16,824 hotel room nights, Pérez-Riera said.

“The film’s excellent performance and acceptance places Puerto Rico in the sights of all producers and major studios, providing Puerto Rico a higher profile as a favorite filming location on an international level,” the government executive said. “The film made a significant investment in the economy of more than $ 27 million and gave us the opportunity to demonstrate once again that Puerto Rico has the caliber to run a Hollywood super production.”

Universal Studio’s hefty investment also paid for hiring local insurance and solid waste collection companies, car rentals, airplane and helicopter companies, travel agencies, construction materials, shipping companies to transport some 60 specialized vehicles, printing companies, lights, elevators, cranes, furniture, and catering, among other services.

“This is definitely an industry that moves and promotes Puerto Rico’s economic development on a large scale,” said Puerto Rico Film Commission Executive Director Mariella Pérez-Serrano.

Since the early 90s, Puerto Rico has played a major role in Hollywood, setting the backdrop for countless movies, television series and specials. Last year, the island hosted more than 10 Hollywood projects, including “Fast Five,” Walt Disney Pictures’ “Pirates of the Caribbean 4,” and Warner Brothers’ “The Losers.”

In all, the industry pumped $43 million into the local economy and created nearly 20,000 direct and indirect jobs. Big-budget productions also bring benefits to the tourism industry, generating 22,671 hotel room night reservations and putting a spotlight on Puerto Rico’s natural attributes, preserving them on film.

The two government officials will head a scouting trip to the Cannes Film Festival taking place May 11-22 in France, to meet with movie producers and participate in panel discussions to sell Puerto Rico’s benefits as a film-making mecca.

Author Details
Author Details
Business reporter with 30 years of experience writing for weekly and daily newspapers, as well as trade publications in Puerto Rico. My list of former employers includes Caribbean Business, The San Juan Star, and the Puerto Rico Daily Sun, among others. My areas of expertise include telecommunications, technology, retail, agriculture, tourism, banking and most other segments of Puerto Rico’s economy.

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