Batman film a blast for some, headache for others


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Much has been said about the trials and tribulations of turning Downtown Pittsburgh into a movie set -- the blocked streets and sidewalks, traffic detours and gridlocked buses.

None of it was bothering Germaine Oden of Penn Hills, who offered this succinct advice on Tuesday: "You gotta maneuver."

In fact, Ms. Oden doesn't have to be in town but plans to bring her daughter in for the spectacle as filming of the new Batman movie, "The Dark Knight Rises," continues.

Downtown workers were expressing a mixture of curiosity and dread as they awaited another round of street closings, traffic stops and bus detours starting today, but most said the shoot was a net plus for the city.

"It's great to have a film come to the city. It brings in revenue and it's exciting," said Gretchen Hancher, who works at MCS Group Inc., a litigation support company with offices in the Lawyers Building on Forbes Avenue. "But it's amazing to me how it can shut down the entire city. People are either really happy or they're really upset."

Around the corner on Cherry Way, crews have dug a large hole in the street, just outside the Primanti Bros. diner. There has been speculation that the Batmobile will be seen careening into it, but as of yesterday, it wasn't deep enough to swallow an average-sized human.

"It's going to be pandemonium," said Rob Johnston, a co-worker of Ms. Hancher's. "Between them shutting down streets and the onlookers it's going to be crazy."

He said workers have been told there will be gunfire and explosions as part of the filming. "That's not something you see very often on Cherry Way," Mr. Johnston said.

Fire alarms will be turned off in nearby buildings so they don't get tripped by all the staged mayhem.

The latest revised schedule of street closings calls for intermittent traffic stoppages on the South Side this afternoon on Bingham Street from Fourth to 10th streets and McKean Street from First to Fourth.

From 10 tonight through 5 a.m. Friday, the shoot will close Forbes and Fourth avenues from Grant Street to Smithfield Street; Cherry Way from Fifth Avenue to the Boulevard of the Allies; and Third Avenue from Cherry Way to Smithfield. Access to parking garages will be maintained, but some entrances and exits may be unavailable.

Production vehicles are parking in the westbound curb lane of the Boulevard of the Allies from Cherry Way to Market Street.

Several workers said they were delayed briefly as they walked to their offices during last week's filming. For Ms. Hancher and Mr. Johnston, whose company delivers boxes of documents to law firms and other clients, the closing of surrounding streets is especially vexing. They have deadlines to meet.

"I'm especially worried now because this is right in front of where we work," Ms. Hancher said.

Mr. Johnston said his bus ride home from work took nearly three hours one day last week. "They had shut down Smithfield Street and rerouted the buses to Fifth (Avenue). It was a straight line of buses going nowhere."

Steve Goda, who works in human resources at the law firm Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney, said tenants at One Oxford Centre will use the door on Grant Street when Fourth Avenue is closed for the filming.

"I don't think so," he said when asked if he was expecting serious disruption. "I think we're just going to go in the front door. We'll just play it by ear. They have been good about positioning people all over the streets instructing us where to go."

Mark Clement, an optometrist at Pure Optical on Fourth Avenue, said the movie makers are paying him to close on Thursday. Compared with the years of disruption from subway tunnel construction near the company's other office in Gateway Center, the movie "is not a big pain," he said.

Not everyone has been so sanguine. A security guard at the Cherry Way hole who was directing pedestrians on a short detour around it said several were indignant at being sent 10 feet out of their way.

"They're just very angry," he said. "Some of it you wouldn't want to put in the newspaper."

Asked if he knew the purpose of the hole, the guard, who didn't want to give his name, said, "I'm just security. They don't tell me what's going on. I've had people come up and say this was the Batcave."

Nearby on Smithfield Street, selling DVDs on a table in front of Ninja Entertainment, Justin DeWolf had no idea what the hole was for but wanted to know if it was true that the Civic Arena was being blown up as part of the filming.

(No.)

A theater major and aspiring actor who recently graduated from Point Park University, Mr. DeWolf nevertheless did not plan to spend much time watching the shoot, and did not apply to be an extra. "I didn't have time. I have two jobs," he said.

Other workers said they doubted there would be much time to view the action.

"Personally, to see an explosion on Cherry Way? I will be looking if we're allowed, but we can't let it interfere with our jobs because we have deadlines to meet," Mr. Johnston said.

"I'm interested but to be honest I really don't have the time during the workday," Mr. Goda said.

"I think it's very good [for the city] and I'll be interested to watch the movie and see the city scenes," he said. "But with this and all of the other construction going on, I'll be glad when it's over."


Jon Schmitz: jschmitz@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1868. Visit the PG's transportation blog, The Roundabout, at www.post-gazette.com/roundabout . Twitter: @pgtraffic.


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