Lights, Camera, Action: Star Quality

Cleveland, this is our Hollywood moment.

Movies are no longer far away experiences. They are here. They are in our neighbors' homes. They are in our museums. They are so close we can even see the wind sweep through Scarlett Johansson's fiery locks. One day we're the nation's capital. The next we're Stuttgart, Germany. And thanks to megahits such as 2012's The Avengers, the third-largest grossing movie of all time, the world is taking notice.

Since the Ohio Motion Picture Tax Credit was established in 2009, 27 films have been shot here. We've grown used to — and even expect — rolling out the red carpet.

But this past year we got upgraded from supporting player to starring role. We welcomed back Marvel Studios and hometown directors Joe and Anthony Russo for Captain America: The Winter Soldier. And Northeast Ohio was the only location for Draft Day, Miss Meadows, Jenny's Wedding and Fear Clinic.

Having these films means that we have a chance to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. On April 11, thousands, maybe even millions, of moviegoers will see Kevin Costner lead the Cleveland Browns through a tense draft, in a film depicting not only our city, but our undying sports fandom.

Our time in the spotlight has paid off. There has been more than $300 million in economic impact since 2009. Hundreds of businesses now cater to the film industry and the equivalent of 1,100 full-time jobs have been created. The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 209's membership jumped from 126 to more than 200 in 2011. The Tri-C Film Crew Tech Training program, which started this year, had a full enrollment of 26 students.

The tax incentive isn't the only reason Tinseltown gravitates toward us. "Cleveland can do anything but desert and mountains," says Ivan Schwarz, president of the Greater Cleveland Film Commission. And it helps that we're willing to let The Avengers blow up East Ninth Street and Captain America shut down the West Shoreway for two weeks.

"Everyone was really nice and polite," Chris Evans told us of filming The Winter Soldier, out April 4. "It seemed like people were glad to have us there."

But our glow is going to fade if we don't start adapting. "We lost a couple of big movies because we didn't have a higher cap and soundstages," Schwarz says.

Nevertheless, our magic moment is far from over. "I really do believe this is a good thing for Cleveland," Schwarz adds. "It will put Cleveland on the map globally, and that's what I'm interested in. It's an untapped gold mine."

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