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Bird's eye view in downtown Chilliwack of movie-making mayhem

Royal Hotel manager Leonard Wiens in one of the tiny front balconies offering a bird
Royal Hotel manager Leonard Wiens in one of the tiny front balconies offering a bird's eye view on the movie shoot activity next week in downtown Chilliwack
— image credit: JENNA HAUCK/ PROGRESS

Come on down.

Chilliwack is preparing for a massive influx of movie production excitement in the downtown core next week.

Principal photography for Monster Trucks by cinematic mogul Paramount Pictures gets underway Tuesday.

Businesses will remain open during the filming and everyone is encouraged to visit the during the shoot — even if parking close by might get a little tricky.

Traffic flow changes, parking restrictions and road closures are all expected.

"Any time there is a movie shoot in town, it can mean good publicity for us," says Leonard Wiens, general manager of the Royal Hotel on Wellington Avenue.

They're even going so far as to offer a special room rate from May 13-28 at the historic hotel. It's perfect for anyone wanting to get a little closer to the movie-making magic.

"They could sit in the coffee shop and watch the action and the movie people going by," he offered.

The star power for the $100 million film includes Amy Ryan (The Office) and veteran actor Danny Glover as a junkyard owner. They'll be joining 20-somethings Lucas Till (X Men), and Jane Levy (Suburgatory).

"The advantage (for anyone at the hotel) is that if you do happen to get a room out front with one of the little balconies, there could be some pretty good views," the Royal Hotel rep said.

There's another side to it, of course.

"I would suggest this will be mixed bag of success and challenges overall for the downtown area. But we're inviting everyone to come on down and be a part of it anyway," Wiens said.

The owner of Find a Treasure on Mill Street said it's her first experience with a film production as an area shop owner.

"At first I was a bit leery about it, having just underwent three months of road closures for the Mill Street project," said Claudia Earl. "But in talking to some of the downtown merchants and customers who went through this before, I think it's actually going to be good."

The film will blend live action sequences with computer-generated animation, directed by Ice Age director Chris Wedge.

A chase scene is going to be shot in the alleyway near the shop, Earl was told.

"There will be a monster truck followed by some police cars, and other vehicles," she said.

They will be attaching a false front to the buildings to make it look like a wall, and the effect will make the alley look even narrower than it is.

Downtown Chilliwack Business Improvement Association officials are thrilled that downtown was chosen as a film location.

"When the film industry comes to town in such a big way, it can have a very positive impact on the community," says BIA president Kyle Williams.

Some downtown businesses may however have to make some sacrifices to make way for the filming mayhem, and that's a concern for some.

It's something on the City of Chilliwack's radar, along with the Chilliwack Film Commission and the BIA, who have all worked closely with the film production reps to help minimize the traffic issues as much as possible.

But obstructions or delays are inevitable.

"We are hopeful that visitors will not only come down to check out some of the action, but also visit some of the independent businesses that helped to make the downtown such a draw in the first place," said Williams.

"It may be more difficult to get to some locations at certain points during the filming, but we trust that people will be understanding and find a way to either get to the shops they are looking for, or come back and visit at a more convenient time."

While the motion picture experience can offer a boost to the local economy, as well as a unique experience for Chilliwack, it would still be a shame if any of the smaller shops suffered "significant" losses, Williams noted.

One of the potential benefits that Wiens sees is the recognizability factor. He mentioned the increased popularity Hope experienced in the wake of becoming the place were Rambo was shot in the 1980s, as an example.

"So there is some value that goes beyond the actual shoot," said Wiens. "We'll see if this movie produces some of those markers for downtown Chilliwack."

Seeing the Royal Hotel's iconic sign in the movie would be positive.

"Yeah that wouldn't hurt us," he said. "Come downtown and watch."

The film is set for release May 29, 2015.

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