Despite moratorium, ‘Spider-Man’ can film at two Atlanta high schools

Atlanta students still don’t know when they can return to classrooms, but one group will be back soon: The cast of “Spider-Man.”

The movie production snagged special permission from Atlanta Public Schools to film at Frederick Douglass High School in January and at Henry W. Grady High School, likely in March.

The district closed school buildings and moved classes entirely online more than eight months ago as concerns about the coronavirus grew. APS has said January is the soonest students may have the option to return to in-person learning.

The school system also halted use of its facilities as film locations. “Spider-Man” is the first film to be granted an exception. The approval came after the movie’s location manager pleaded for permission to use the two high schools and dangled a $50,000 incentive.

Ian Easterbrook described his request on behalf of Sony Pictures and Marvel Studios as “unique and very time-sensitive” and said he had “exhausted our normal channels of communication” before appealing directly to school board members and Superintendent Lisa Herring.

”I know that APS is currently not accepting filming applications due to the COVID pandemic, and I know that filming a new movie quickly falls to the bottom of the priority list,” he wrote, in an email obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution through an open-records request.

But, he said, use of the two schools is “vital to the success of this next film” because the spots already had been established in “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” which was released in 2017.

APS spokesman Seth Coleman said the district has received several requests from moviemakers to use district properties since the pandemic moratorium took effect. Officials made an exception for the third installment of “Spider-Man” because the schools had been used before, he said.

Easterbrook referred a request for comment to a publicist, who did not respond.

The approval is one more sign that Georgia’s film industry is reviving after productions halted in the spring. About three dozen film and TV projects are currently in production, according to Georgia’s film office. That’s approaching pre-pandemic levels.

APS will collect its customary filming fees of $750 a day for preparation and tear down and $2,500 a day for filming. The district also will charge by the hour for any related staff time. In addition, the two schools will negotiate a donation based on their needs, Coleman said.

Easterbrook’s email said about $50,000 has been allocated for that. He suggested it could be used to upgrade the schools’ air filtration systems, purchase COVID-19 tests and protective gear, or buy laptops for virtual learning.

Coleman said the production is scheduled to be at Douglass High School Jan. 22-24. The tentative dates for Grady are March 19-21.

One day of filming is planned at each site, plus days for setting up and tearing down. The dates fall on weekends. If students are back in classrooms, filming activities will not begin until they leave the buildings, Coleman said.