- Special Projects
A lot of people in Honolulu don’t like the “Magnum P.I.” reboot.
And it’s not just because the series lead, Jay Hernandez, is no Tom Selleck.
Residents in three areas are complaining that the newby operation, which began shooting this year and airs on CBS, is engaging in an aggressive land grab by commandeering city streets and blocking access to parking spaces.
Waikiki residents near Ainakea Way, located behind Jefferson Elementary School, say that “Magnum P.I.” crews closed off the street, with signs that banned parking for several days in November. Some people who regularly park in the 70 spaces on the street were towed. And on at least two days, despite closing off parking, the film crew never showed up at all, residents said.
When they complained, members of the film crew were “really haughty about it,” said resident Robert Wehrman, a retired professor of music at the University of Hawaii, adding that city police shrugged it off.
On Kapahulu Avenue, “Magnum P.I.’s” locations manager announced to local businesses that the show would be taking over all the paid parking on the street from Dec. 10 to 13. The action made it hard for customers to reach small businesses along the busy thoroughfare, and caused them to lose business.
In at least two cases the “Magnum” crew covered up the signs of small shops with fictional signs they created without getting permission from the store owners.
And in Kahala, residents have begun complaining loudly enough about the blockage along Kahala Avenue that Waialae/Kahala Neighhorhood Board Chairman Rich Turbin is placing the topic of film-industry over-reaching on the agenda for the January board meeting. He is considering offering a resolution asking film officials to turn down requests for film permits on streets already jammed occasionally by mass-participant events like the Honolulu Marathon.
Contacted for comment, city and state officials who work with the film industry said they were unaware of the complaints and that film production crews are supposed to be giving residents and businesses adequate notice and assistance to minimize any economic hardship.
“The goal is minor inconvenience,” said film commissioner Walea L. Constantinau of the Honolulu Film Office, who is responsible for issuing permits for film production in the city. She said that film crews are supposed to notify local people of their planned arrival at least 24 hours beforehand and to try to mitigate any damage they cause. She said that most production companies go to great lengths to compensate or assist people who have been adversely affected.
Constantinau said that people who believe they have been treated unfairly should contact the film production companies, whose names and contact numbers are listed on the signs they use to block traffic, and if they don’t get an adequate response, they should contact her office or the Hawaii Film Office.
Georja Skinner, chief officer of the state’s Creative Industries Division, part of the state’s economic development and tourism department, which includes the Hawaii Film Office, said that “there’s a balance” between the needs of film production crews and local residents. The state film office issues permits for shooting on state lands.
Skinner said the “Magnum” crew is a “new team,” and as they establish themselves, they have had a number of “last minute requests” for shooting permits. Constantinau said the series works on a tight, seven-day schedule for producing each show, which requires it to operate quickly.
“It’s Year One,” she said. “It takes awhile for people to settle in … “Magnum P.I.” is finding its footing as they find their way.”
Local representatives for “Magnum P.I.” did not respond to requests for comment. Chris Howard, assistant location manager for “Magnum” and the person who coordinated the Kapahulu shoot, referred calls to his supervisor, who he said was named Joe, and provided a telephone number. Joe did not return calls for comment.
CBS, which operates in Hawaii as Eye Productions/CBS, also did not respond to a request for comment.
At the heart of this turf war is the growing economic presence of the film and television industry in Hawaii. It is bringing more dollars to the state but also requiring space and special arrangements in parts of Oahu that have become increasingly congested.
In the 1970s and 1980s, series like the original “Hawaii 5-0” and “Magnum, P.I.” (with a comma in its name in those years) gave Hawaii important international exposure. But Hawaii was a different place then.
In the heyday of the original “Hawaii 5-0,” there were 770,000 residents in the state. Now there are 1.4 million. In Waikiki and Kahala, where many of the shots are filmed, space is increasingly at a premium as a wall of high-rises moves down Kuhio Avenue toward the Honolulu Zoo. And high housing costs mean workers are doubled up and tripled up in apartments that once housed only a single adult, putting even more pressure on parking.
And tourism has grown exponentially since then. In 1980, Hawaii hosted 3.9 million tourists a year and now hosts more than 8.8 million, which means that setting up a location for a shoot in east Oahu means parting the waves of ever-denser throngs of tourists.
The crowds make it hard to decide how much advance notice is appropriate, Constantinau said, because putting out more information about film production plans means that spectators, or what she called “lookie-loos,” congregate to catch a glimpse of the action, adding to the congestion.
To attract film productions, Hawaii has engaged in a generous tax-credit program, soon to be capped at $35 million per year, that gives filmmakers 20 percent back for every dollar they spend in the state. City and state officials say it has paid off, and they calculate the film industry has spent more than $470 million in the past year for materials, salaries and equipment rentals.
“The big projects are all able to compensate for the loss of business.” — Walea L. Constantinau, Honolulu Film Office
Many people, of course, are thrilled when Tinseltown comes calling and expect no payment or reimbursement for their inconvenience. Their biggest concern is wondering when the episode will air and whether there is any chance that they or their house will show up on the show.
Other businesses and residents who are affected by film shooting have learned to negotiate for payments or privileges in exchange for permitting access to their properties. When a film crew recently shot footage in Chinatown, for example, property owners along North King Street received some $40,000 in payments from the producers to compensate for any damage, Constantinau said.
“The big projects are all able to compensate for the loss of business,” she said.
Some residents and business, however, could be falling through the cracks in that process.
On the stretch of Kapahulu Avenue most affected by the shoot, the roadway and sidewalks were filled with workers associated with production of the TV show. The film team parked their trucks so they took up far more parking spaces on both sides of the street than they needed, with Eye Productions/CBS signs warning motorists they would be towed if they parked their cars in the vacant metered spaces. Off-duty police officers, security personnel and a crew of Teamsters who transported the personnel and equipment created a visible show of force.
Ordinary commercial transactions appeared to have ground to a halt. Stores stood empty, restaurant traffic was noticeably slow, with proprietors showing signs of irritation and distress. Business owners asked not to be quoted about the situation or said they didn’t mind that they had no customers.
Some had not been informed that they could seek compensation for the lost business. Constantinau of the Honolulu film office said that business operators should be aware that they can be compensated for a loss of business or inconvenience to employees or customers.
That’s a good lesson for other Hawaii residents as well.
Residents of Ainakea Way, for example, could have insisted they be provided parking elsewhere. Wehrman recalls that the original “Hawaii 5-0” won neighborhood support by offering food or financial compensation to people who might otherwise have felt put-upon.
“They would say, ‘Feel free to use our facilities, or eat our food,’” Wehrman said. “They were really nice about it.”
But “Magnum,” he said, has been different.
“It’s like they’re from New York,” he said. “It’s just crap. This has no place in Hawaii.”
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