“The Purge” Hits New Orleans

A new series in production now could add to the list of Hollywood South’s small screen successes.

Kimberley Singletary is the managing editor of Biz New Orleans magazine. A 20-year Southern California veteran, she has been surrounded by the film industry for most of her life.


 

Imagine if all crime, including murder, was legal for one 12-hour period of time every year. That is the idea behind the hit movie franchise “The Purge.”

The fourth movie in “The Purge” series, a kind of prequel titled “The First Purge,” came out July 4, and after less than two weeks had already racked up over $48 million worldwide.

If past showings are any indication, it will be an even bigger blockbuster than its predecessor because, unlike many sequels that fail to duplicate the success of the original, “The Purge” films have each been more profitable than the last. The first film, “The Purge,” released in 2013, grossed $89.3 million worldwide. The 2014 follow up, “The Purge: Anarchy,” grossed $111.9 million, and 2016’s “The Purge: Election Year” grossed $118.6 million worldwide.

Screenwriter, director and producer James DeMonaco’s first screenplay was a 1996 comedy called “Jack” that starred Robin Williams. It received poor reviews and grossed not much over its budget. But this much darker creation has struck a chord with viewers and its popularity just keeps growing.

With audiences obviously clamoring for more of this dystopian horror series, its not surprising that the entire team behind the franchise — including producer Michael Bay, the man behind films like “Armageddon,” “Transformers” and “The Rock” — are all currently at work on “The Purge” the TV series.

It’s also not really surprising that this 10-episode series is filming in New Orleans, given the fact that Hollywood South is most definitely rising again. As of early this spring, no less than 10 different TV productions were filming in Louisiana. As of July, however, only two were still braving the heat: a new TNT series called “Tell Me Your Secrets,” filming June 25 through Oct. 25, and “The Purge,” which began filming the first week of May and wraps Aug. 31. The series’ first episode will broadcast Sept. 4 at 10/9 central on USA and Syfy.

If it continues the franchise’s streak, “The Purge” could add another successful series to our collection of Louisiana-shot shows, which includes the CBS show “NCIS: New Orleans,” currently on its fifth season; AMC’s “Preacher,” and the Oprah Winfrey Network’s “Queen Sugar,” both on their third seasons; and HBO’s “Claws,” which just renewed for its third season July 2.

A strong TV filming presence is important to Hollywood South because TV productions tend to stay in town a good deal longer than feature films, providing both more revenue and potential sources of steady employment for locals in an industry where that can be very hard to come by. You can see this in the budget for “The Purge” series — $20.8 million of the show’s $44 million budget will be spent in Louisiana, which includes a $16 million payroll.

I recently spoke with one of the stars of the upcoming series, Jessica Garza, who is currently living in a furnished apartment downtown during the four months of filming. A Dallas native now living in Los Angeles, Garza said she had never been to New Orleans before this role.

Although New Orleans is not designed to be recognizable in the show, which is looking for more of a generic “this could be any city” feel, Garza said the city’s kind of spooky, mysterious element really lends itself to the darker nature of the show.

“The show really looks at the broader story of “The Purge” and how it affects all these different people who all find themselves questioning their decisions in one way or another. I think the appeal for “The Purge” started as a good, scary movie and then it just exploded and they [the creators] really saw what they had and that is the basis for a really good story that says something meaningful about the world we live in, or could end up living in.”

What it means now, however, is more money and jobs for Louisiana, which is always welcome. Here’s hoping it’s another Hollywood South hit!


 

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