Puerto Rico is one of those destinations that for years has been a magnet for film and television productions. And the reason is simple: its pristine beaches, rustic cave formations, lush rainforest, inland beauty, urban neighborhoods, historic cobblestone streets and notable architecture. One of the most magical effects about movies is their ability to transport viewers to new locations and make them feel as if they were part of those settings and Puerto Rico provides those picture perfect sceneries that can represent locations from anywhere in the world.
In the last decade, Puerto Rico has drawn scores of local and off-island producers who scout ideal backdrops for their films all over the San Juan metropolitan area, coastal towns such as Ceiba and Fajardo, as well as our island municipalities of Vieques and Culebra, just to name a few of the favorite spots that tend to garner audience attention and fanfare – quickly becoming tourism hot spots.
Important as well is the local talent — professional, technical and support staff, and actors — which movie producers have bestowed the distinction of being some of the best in the business.
Blockbuster Hollywood films such as “Runner, Runner” — starring Ben Affleck and Justin Timberlake — filmed scenes inside the iconic El San Juan Hotel in Isla Verde with its emblematic lobby chandelier, hand-carved Mahogany and spectacular ocean views – as well as several installments of Johnny Depp’s “Pirates of the Caribbean” series, which dropped anchor on the pristine coasts of one of our tiny islets, Palominito.
“Our Brand is Crisis,” starring Sandra Bullock, rolled in Puerto Rico in 2014 on the urban streets of Rio Piedras, the central mountains of Naranjito and the beautiful coastlines of Fajardo and Ceiba. Meanwhile, Adam Sandler has also headed several projects for Netflix on the island, including “The Do-Over,” (2016) which he co-starred with David Spade. More than once, the duo was seen filming in Old San Juan, which has served as a set for countless other movies with its brightly colored Spanish colonial houses and blue cobblestone streets.
Most recently, Affleck returned to the island, joining Anne Hathaway in the upcoming Netflix original film “The last thing he wanted,” which selected several locations on the island during its production process in 2018, including the Julio Enrique Monagas National Park in Bayamon – a 200-acre nature respite for families and adventurers. Netflix also shot “She’s gotta have it,” and “Nicky Jam, El Ganador,” which will also airs on Telemundo in 2019.
Sony Crackle also saw Puerto Rico’s potential, filming the first two seasons of its multi-episode series, “The Oath,” which rolled in Old San Juan, Rio Piedras and Punta Las Marias (part of the Ocean Park beach community) in 2018. Season two is set for a February 2019 release.
Local big-screen productions also made some noise in 2018, with the back-to-back filming of the “Domirriqueños 2 and 3,” which received incentives from the Puerto Rico Film Development Fund.
That allure remains very much alive and will likely gain additional momentum in years to come thanks to a combination of new film production studios under construction in San Juan and incentives available from the Puerto Rico Film Commission and other agencies.
The agency oversees the Puerto Rico Film Industry Economic Incentives Act, which was enacted to solidify Puerto Rico’s position as one of the leading jurisdictions for the production of film, television, and other media projects. The Act provides tax exemptions and tax credits to businesses engaged in film production in Puerto Rico.
Another draw in coming years will be the $136 million Puerto Rico Film District complex at the Isla Grande sector of San Juan, a proposition by British businessman Keith St. Clair to continue drawing the eyes of the production world to the island.
Currently under construction, the 46-acre campus is adjacent to the Puerto Rico Convention Center and the District LIVE! entertainment complex to be built with a bustling Time Square-esque atmosphere. The Puerto Rico Film District will include a 180,000 square-foot facility that will house five sound stages, administrative offices, conference rooms, post production and editing rooms, fitting rooms and a film school, St. Clair explained.
“The important aspect of the project is its location. The Puerto Rico Convention Center District is strategic real estate for groups and conventions and the integration of that complex will balance the visitor’s experience,” said Noelia García, deputy director of the Convention Center District.
A new component, a 300-room hotel, has been added to the blueprint at the request of the government, adding that there is the possibility that the project will also include a 1,000-seat theater to draw permanent shows, much like what takes place on Broadway in New York City.
The first elements of the complex should open in late 2020 and the full project should be completed in 2022. If St. Clair builds the hotel first, it will be likely open in December 2020.
So while relaxing on the beach or shopping in the Old City, you never know what Hollywood A-lister you may spot!