IT MIGHT SEEM ODD, BUT OVER THE PAST FEW YEARS movies that are set in Jerusalem are actually filmed very often in other Mediterranean countries, like Malta, Morocco and Greece. Now Israel is trying to cash in on the multibillion-dollar industry and lure Hollywood producers to film in the Holy Land, by promising better tax breaks, terror attack insurance and handouts of up to $400,000.
According to conventional wisdom in Hollywood, Jerusalem is too volatile to ensure smooth filming on location. International insurance companies have traditionally refused to provide terrorism risk coverage, or have offered it at exorbitant prices.
For a long time, it didn’t make financial sense for the producers. While Israel in the 1980s attracted such star-studded productions as Sylvester Stallone’s “Rambo 3” and Chuck Norris’ “The Delta Force,” it later lost out to other countries that started giving big tax incentives to producers.
Nowadays, most major Hollywood productions have preferred to set up their movies about Jerusalem elsewhere: “World War Z,” the new Brad Pitt movie, part of the plot of which takes place in Jerusalem, but is actually being currently filmed in Malta. “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” opens with Kevin Costner escaping from a prison in Jerusalem – but the movie was filmed in England and France. In Steven Spielberg’s “Munich,” about Mossad assassinations of Palestinians who killed Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics, a Tel Aviv beach promenade scene was filmed in Malta.
Part of the push to get Jerusalem into movie theaters is to present a more positive image of the city than the conflict seen in the news – “the Jerusalem that more than 3.5 billion people of faith around the world wish to see,” said Stephan Miller, spokesman for Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat.