'Transformers' invade Chicago in new film

  • Cars are seen piled up in a plaza along Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago last summer during the filming of "Transformers: Dark of the Moon."

    Cars are seen piled up in a plaza along Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago last summer during the filming of "Transformers: Dark of the Moon." AP File Photo/Kiichiro Sato

  • Pedestrians had to walk on the lower deck of the Michigan Avenue bridge in downtown Chicago during "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" filming last summer.

    Pedestrians had to walk on the lower deck of the Michigan Avenue bridge in downtown Chicago during "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" filming last summer. AP File Photo/Kiichiro Sato

  • An aerial look at last summer's "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" filming in Chicago.

    An aerial look at last summer's "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" filming in Chicago. File photo courtesy of ABC 7 Chicago

  • "Transformers" director Michael Bay brought his crew to Chicago last summer to film some action scenes for the third film in the franchise, "Transformers: Dark of the Moon."

    "Transformers" director Michael Bay brought his crew to Chicago last summer to film some action scenes for the third film in the franchise, "Transformers: Dark of the Moon."

  • Bumblebee and the other robotic heroes of "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" hit local movie screens Tuesday.

    Bumblebee and the other robotic heroes of "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" hit local movie screens Tuesday.

 
 
Updated 6/27/2011 5:37 AM

Michael Bay's eagerly awaited action film "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" opens Tuesday with the franchise's biggest star yet: the city of Chicago.

Bay shot several showcase sequences for "Transformers" last year in Chicago, mostly along Michigan Avenue and the LaSalle Street financial district.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Along Lake Street near Wabash Avenue, filmmakers created a large, bombed-out building set with chunks of concrete flooring and walls protruding into the air.

Hundreds of "Transformers" fans flocked to Chicago to see the filmmakers perform stunts, demonstrate firepower and create carefully calculated scenes of mass destruction.

The third entry in the sci-fi film series, based on Hasbro's shape-shifting toys, used more than a dozen Chicago locations and pumped $20 million into the local economy.

"It was a good film to have here," Rich Moskal, director of the Chicago Film Office, said. "We're talking about an internationally anticipated blockbuster."

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In "Transformers: Dark of the Moon," Shia LaBeouf returns as Sam Witwicky, an unwitting pawn in a battle between giant alien robots that can change their shapes. Actress Megan Fox has been replaced as the female lead by Victoria's Secret model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley.

The first two "Transformers" films grossed more than $720 million in North America. Moskal said projects like "Transformers" hire local crew members and actors, and purchase many local goods and services.

Having movies shot in Chicago, such as "The Dark Knight", also boosts tourism. "It's a harder thing to track," Moskal said, "but movies like that do make fans around the country visit here."

Chicago and its suburbs have been used in recent movies and television shows, including Ron Howard's "The Dilemma" and the upcoming Steven Soderbergh movie "Contagion," partly filmed in Elgin.

Two upcoming TV series, "Boss" and "The Playboy Club," also feature scenes shot here.

"Chicago has a lot of momentum now," Moskal said. "Studios see how good Chicago looks on film, and they're realizing how accommodating the city is."