Burn Notice Burns 25 Million Hole
By Catherine Lackner
"Burn Notice," the spy drama that garnered top ratings and became synonymous with Miami, will end when the filming of its seventh season wraps up this summer, and its departure will create a void, industry sources said.
"Burn Notice revitalized South Florida’s film industry," said Sandy Lighterman, Miami-Dade County film commissioner. "For the past seven seasons they employed hundreds of cast and crew members and infused more than $100 million into the local economy."
"It’s had a great run; longer than most," said Kevin Sharpley, president and CEO of Kijik Multi-media Productions. "It’s a great loss to the community; it employs a lot of people. It’s been a tremendous economic engine for this community."
In 2007, when the show began filming at the 107,000-square-foot former Coconut Grove Convention Center, it was the first major broadcast or cable series to be produced in Miami since "Miami Vice" ended in 1990.
"Everyone — local hotels, car rentals, restaurants, retail stores — has benefited immensely from this show being produced in Miami," Ms. Lighterman said. Burn Notice "contributed to film-induced tourism and helped to make Miami sexy again. We have been privileged to have them call Miami-Dade County home, and they will be sorely missed."
For the first six seasons, Fox Television Studios’ TVM Productions, which produces the show, paid the City of Miami $240,000 per year to rent the convention center, but Miami plans to demolish the building for a waterfront park as part of its Coconut Grove Waterfront Master Plan. Last summer, the city notified TVM that the show’s lease would not be renewed at the end of season six. The attempted eviction touched off a firestorm of controversy and galvanized the local film industry, which bombarded commissioners with emails, letters, phone calls and visits.
Finally, a deal was struck in which rent increased to $450,000 and Fox agreed not to request further lease extensions. Had the show continued beyond its current season, TVM officials said they would probably have moved it outside Miami — possibly to Broward or out of state — as they felt there was no other suitable studio space.
TVM’s lease runs through September, and because this season has been shortened from 18 to 13 episodes, the center will probably be empty for some time once the cameras are turned off on the final day of shooting.
"The show has been amazing, and has promoted our community quite nicely," said Leah Sokolowsky, president of the Film Florida advocacy group. "’Burn Notice’ put Miami and South Florida back on the map and proved that we could do series television here. It’s partly because of ‘Burn Notice’ that we’re getting the attention we’re getting."
The Florida Legislature ended its 2013 session May 3 having created no incentives for film production. Over the past three years, $242 million in incentives, in the form of tax credits, have lured five major television shows and countless other smaller projects to the state, primarily to Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties.
"Not adding incentive ties our hands to attract new production," Ms. Sokolowsky said.
The full effect of the departure of "Burn Notice" will probably be most keenly felt next spring, when the show traditionally began filming each season, she said. "At the time when they would normally be gearing up, if there is nothing new to take its place, there will be a couple of hundred people out of work and $25 million less coming into our community. We’ll have to see."To read the entire issue of Miami Today online, subscribe to e-MIAMI TODAY, an exact digital replica of the printed edition.