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Ghostbusters filmed Times Square on Boston airfield

Ghostbusters ensemblePaul Feig’s new Ghostbusters movie doubled Boston for New York City and his production team built Times Square on a former airfield.

The film introduces a fresh cast of female leads as a new team of Ghostbusters and pits them against a collection of supernatural forces.

New York remains the setting for Ghostbusters, like the franchise’s original movies that were released in the mid-80s. The iconic city is one of the most popular movie locations in the US, partly because of its generous filming incentive. 

However, the sheer popularity of Manhattan and its surrounds can present challenges for filmmakers, quite aside from occasional strains on studio facilities and crew availability.  

Boston has similar architecture to New York, as well as a 25% filming incentive for shoots that schedule at least half of their principal production days in Massachusetts. Feig also had prior experience of filming locally, having shot his cop comedy The Heat in Boston in 2013.

Key scenes in the new Ghostbusters movie take place in Times Square, but rather than film in the real central-Manhattan location, the production team built their own set (pictured below) on the site of the former South Weymouth Naval Air Station near Boston. Giant green screens helped facilitate the sequence’s visual effects. 

Building the set delivered complete control, something which would never have been possible in the real-life location, which is a major tourist attraction.

Ghostbusters Times Square set

Ghostbusters isn’t the first feature to have rebuilt Times Square for an action sequence with heavy visual effects content. The Amazing Spider-Man 2, released in 2014, used the spot as the setting for a violent confrontation between the web-slinging hero and the movie’s villain Electro. Location filming took place for a single night in the real Times Square, before relocating to an immense set in Gold Coast Studios on New York’s Long Island. 

“We all know what Times Square looks like – it’s an iconic venue,” said Matt Tolmach, a producer on The Amazing Spider-Man 2, speaking at the time of the film’s release: “Even though we were recreating it, it had to look and feel exactly like Times Square.

“We built a set that was literally the size of Times Square, with green screens as large as the screens that you see in Times Square – and we lit it up like Times Square. The scope was simply enormous.”

Ghostbusters in actionThe space used for the Ghostbusters shoot at Boston’s South Weymouth site is continuing to appeal to filmmakers.

Earlier this year director Peter Berg and actor/producer Mark Wahlberg built the final stage of the Boston Marathon race on the airstrip. The set was for their upcoming film Patriots Day, which tells the story of the city-wide manhunt for the Boston Marathon bombers in April 2013. 

Purpose-built production facilities are in fact available in Massachusetts. New England Studios is based near Boston and offers four 18,000-sq-ft sound stages, but several films coming into Massachusetts over the past couple of years have opted to use adapted industrial buildings instead. 

Massachusetts’ main production competition still comes from New York, which is one of the main filming hubs in the US with generous tax credit support and multiple studio facilities. The Canadian hubs of Toronto and Montreal are also close by. Boston is likely to sustain its popularity as a filming location, though longer-term success will be dependent on the filming incentive remaining in place.

For more on filming in Massachusetts see our production guide.

Images: Columbia Pictures