By Cameron Kittle
The celebrities are in town, the movie sets are built, and the excitement among the people of Essex is growing about the film "Grown Ups," which is shooting scenes at Centennial Grove.
The movie stars Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, Kevin James and Salma Hayek, and has brought $150,000 to the town already.
"About half the money is in and the rest is expected to come in the next couple of weeks as I understand it," said Jeff Soulard, chairman of the town Finance Committee.
The filming started May 18 in Southborough, but the crew moved to Essex last Thursday and intends to stay until Aug. 21. All of the construction workers and members of Lakefront Productions have been reasonable and easy to work with, according to sales manager Bob Bradford of the Building Center stores in Gloucester and Essex.
"The construction crews have been tremendous," he said. "They've been redoing houses and buildings down (on Centennial Grove) and all of the improvements will stay. They'll take down the movie sets when they go, but it's something else, what they've done down there; it's terrific."
That positive spirit has spread throughout the town, Selectman Ray Randall says. He said the work that the crews have planned for Grove Cottage will give it "curbside appeal" again.
"It's a gift to the town of Essex," Randall said. "Some folks have been inconvenienced, but most are excited about having Adam Sandler in town. It has worked out positively for businesses."
One restaurant is already seeing the benefits of having the huge project in town. Tom Shea's, at 122 Main St., has brought in a bigger lunch crowd and attributes much of it to the workers who have been in Essex for the past few weeks, preparing and building sets.
"We've had a lot of business coming in with crew members and construction, as far as people who haven't been in the area," said Andie Knight, manager at Tom Shea's. "The buzz in town is that any business is good business, no matter where it ends up."
Just across the street, Woodman's restaurant has also done a few meals for the crews, but manager Curt Fougere said it was "nothing dramatic" in terms of improved business.
The more exciting news at Woodman's is still to come; a restaurant scene is scheduled to be shot in its dining area. The filming was supposed to take place this week, but Fougere received word that it would be postponed to a later date for an unspecified reason.
"My kids were a little upset that it was postponed, but it doesn't really matter to me either way," Fougere said. "We're in the process now of renegotiating a new date for them to come."
Not all restaurants on Main Street have enjoyed the prosperity of the film though, according to Albert Tang, the manager at Fortune Palace on 99 Main St.
Tang said he hasn't noticed any significant changes in business, and he has a hunch that this summer could be worse than the last with the tumultuous economic times. He did add though, that he hopes it will get better as the filming progresses.
"It's still early, it's May, but I hope it will get better by June or July," Tang said.
None of the restaurants have seen as much business as the Building Center that have had crews "coming in and out all the time," according to Bradford, but it has been great for the area so far.
Bradford said he even wants to set up a benefit softball game to raise money for a local cause, pitting locals against some of the cast and crew members if they were willing. Nothing official has been drawn up yet, but Bradford said they could have it at Essex's Field of Dreams.
With the huge number of cars packed alongside Centennial Grove Road hoping to catch a glimpse of the star-studded cast on Friday, there's no doubt the game Bradford has in mind would be a home run.
Cameron Kittle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org