SALISBURY — “Sleepy Hollow” seems to be gaining momentum as TV network executives prepare to unveil their fall lineups next week.
City Manager Doug Paris said 20th Century Fox may try to compensate some downtown businesses that lost money during filming of the pilot.
Two trade publications are reporting that Fox TV is likely to pick up “Sleepy Hollow,” which shot for five nights in Salisbury, transforming parts of downtown with car chases, gunshots, pyrotechnics and a fog-filled, spooky cemetery.
The supernatural thriller features Ichabod Crane as a time-traveling Revolutionary War captain doing battle with the Headless Horseman. If the show becomes a TV series, film crews could spend much of the summer in Salisbury, which was depicted as the town of Sleepy Hollow in the pilot.
The fall broadcast lineup won’t be announced until Monday, but trade publications are reporting which pilots have the best shot of being picked up.
Adweek.com reported this week that the Fox dramas “Rake” and “Sleepy Hollow” “should also make the cut.”
Deadline.com reported on April 21 that “Sleepy Hollow” was a wild card. But by Thursday, the publication had improved the pilot’s chances, saying “’Rake,’ ‘Gang Related,’ ‘Sleepy Hollow’ and the [J.J.] Abrams-produced ‘Human’ seem to be the strongest contenders on the drama side, where the network is rumored to be picking up about three new series.”
City spokeswoman Elaney Hasselmann told City Council at Tuesday’s meeting that the pilot was delivered to the network May 3 and is “in the top running for pick up.”
However, 20th Century Fox has not said whether the studio would return to Salisbury and the Charlotte region to film the series.
The studio is looking at alternate locations across the country, Hasselmann said. If the pilot gets picked up, the network would select sites and Salisbury has no guarantee, she said.
Preliminary figures from the N.C. Film Office show 20th Century Fox spent about $8 million in the Charlotte region filming the pilot.
The studio paid the city of Salisbury $29.94 for water and the rental of hydrant meters, while the city of Gastonia charged 20th Century Fox $1,700 for one day of filming in front of City Hall and rental of a municipal parking lot.
Two churches in Salisbury where filming took place negotiated significant, undisclosed donations from the studio.
But several downtown business owners said they lost thousands of dollars because customers couldn’t get to their restaurants. Filming shut down roughly a 12-block area, and although sidewalks were supposed to remain open, several people said they were told to stay off sidewalks.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Councilman Brian Miller said some downtown business owners had hoped the pilot would generate business and “were disappointed when it didn’t benefit them more than it did.” If the streets close, businesses lose revenue, Miller said.
Miller suggested that if Fox picks up the pilot and filming returns to Salisbury, city leaders should contact officials in Wilmington to learn the best way for a city to host a film project with the least disruption for businesses. Wilmington has provided the backdrop for “Dawson’s Creek,” “One Tree Hill” and many other projects.
“We are obviously very excited about this pilot, but we want to make sure we don’t harm the businesses that are here already,” Miller said.
Paris, the city manager, warned against putting up obstacles for a studio.
“They don’t want to be saddled with too much regulation,” he said.
Paris defended the studio, saying 20th Century Fox recently went to one downtown business that talked to the Post about losing revenue and offered to compensate the owner.
Paris said the studio asked for proof of revenue and receipts to show how much money the restaurant would have normally made, but the business did not provide documentation. The studio could not compensate, he said.
After the meeting, Paris said he did not know which business the studio attempted to pay.
He also said studio officials told him they planned to contact other downtown business owners who were concerned about the street closures and loss of revenue. He said he didn’t know if any businesses have been compensated.
Tuesday night, the Post contacted the owners of Sweet Meadow, Gritz and Ethos, all located on streets that were closed from 6 p.m. to 7 a.m. during filming. None said they had been paid or contacted by 20th Century Fox.
Owners of Uncle Buck’s, Go Burrito and Salty Caper, who all said they lost money during “Sleepy Hollow,” could not be reached. The director of the N.C. Film Office also could not be reached.
Twentieth Century Fox does not discuss financial details like compensation.
Although they were urged by the studio to stay open during filming, some restaurant owners said they would have been better off closing because they paid employees to staff empty restaurants.
Ethos owner Louie Mourouzidis said he lost $6,500 during filming.
Restaurant owners learned later from the Post that in North Carolina, businesses shut down by a film project can request compensation from a studio by going through the N.C. Film Office.
Paris said the city plans to help business owners protect their investment during film projects in Salisbury.
“In the future, we will take a more active role in facilitating that,” Paris said.
Buzz surrounding this year’s pilots includes talk that Fox may turn “Sleepy Hollow” into an event series.
Deadline.com said one of the highest profile drama prospects for next season, ABC’s “Once Upon a Time” spinoff, has been developed as a limited series. The network will air 13-episode arcs every season, a format similar to FX’s successful “American Horror Story.”
“Such a potential scenario also has been mentioned for a number of other serialized/high-concept drama pilots should they get a series order: ABC’s ‘Gothica’ and ‘Big Thunder,” Fox’s ‘Sleepy Hollow and CBS’ ‘Hostages,’” Deadline.com reported.
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.