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Looking for superheroes in Detroit?

Quinn Klinefelter Mar 24, 2016
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Downtown Detroit at night. 
james/Flickr

Warner Bros. studios is banking much of its financial future on this week’s opening of the long-awaited movie Batman v Superman.

The city that served as a backdrop for much of the film, Detroit, is also hoping for a bit of a bump in popularity from the first big screen pairing of the iconic superheroes.

And don’t worry if you want to find just where your favorite scene was shot in Detroit.

There’s an app for that.

The filmmakers were drawn to Michigan initially because of tax credits.

Batman versus Superman received $35 million in tax breaks on the promise that filmmakers would spend about $130 million in the state.

But the movie’s executive producer, Michigan native Wes Coller, knew there was also much more to the Motor City than tax breaks and blight.

“In terms of city looks it’s got every look you can imagine,” Coller said. “There are tons of just great opportunities to get outside of the city and pick up great landscapes and whatever we may need.”

Those locales include the Mix Snack Shop, a convenience store near a 15 story downtown bank building which, due to the magic of movie making, was shown being blown up in the movie.

Co-owner Marina Abdullah says the film’s director wanted the store closed one Saturday because Bruce Wayne was going to be hurtling by, en route to saving a portion of humanity.

“He was telling us what was going to happen. ‘That glass building over there is going to be destroyed. It is going to be blown up.’ And we had helicopter scenes (where) they had a helicopter come down. It was so exciting,” Abdullah recalled.

But it’s something that may not happen again.

Michigan lawmakers cancelled the film tax credit last year, arguing it was only returning about 60 cents on the dollar to the state.

Marina Abdullah counters that the caped crime fighters’ crew did bring money into her store and other Detroit businesses.

She said, “For us it was very nice because we had some of the crew that was working on it coming in and purchasing things.  I think it brings a lot of money into the city and I think it was a mistake that they (cancelled the tax breaks.)”

Even without the tax incentives Michigan still has a film office. And staff there knew Detroit was doubling as Metropolis and Gotham City.

Why not leverage that?

Michigan Film Commissioner Jenell Leonard said, “Recent studies show that one in five people travel because of a movie or a TV series that they’ve been inspired by.”

So Leonard created a new mobile app highlighting locations used in the movie.

“With each stop it provides background information on the actors or the location or community layers specific to the revitalization of Detroit. Things to do, places to go. So it has a couple of different layers there,” she said.

The locations range from an abandoned train station to Belle Isle, a lush island on the edge of the city.

And the lack of tax incentives may not be Kryptonite for the Michigan-based movie industry.

Director Zach Snyder, for one, says the Bat may be back in Detroit.

He says they’ve established the city as the backdrop for the movie and he’s loathe to recast the part.

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