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Queens wants screen time in new MiB movie

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Fans of the decaying 1964 World’s Fair buildings in Flushing Meadows Corona Park are pleased that a blockbuster Hollywood franchise is returning to the borough for a third film.

Shooting for “Men in Black III” has already begun, and so has speculation about what, if any, borough landmarks will be featured in the movie.

Scenes for the upcoming film will be shot all over New York City, according to Steve Elzer, a spokesman for Sony Pictures. Elzer could not confirm rumors that a scene will take place over Shea Stadium in the year 1969, when the Mets won the World Series.

Locations for the new film are unclear, but Queens was featured prominently in the first “Men in Black” film shot in 1997.

In one of the final scenes of the science-fiction flick, characters played by Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones track an alien monster to the 1964 World’s Fair site. The alien climbs into one of the observation towers and fires up the engines — the tower had secretly been a spaceship all along — and takes off over Shea Stadium.

But it does not get far, and the Men in Black shoot the craft out of the sky in plain sight of fans attending a New York Mets game. The ship then crashes directly into the Unisphere.

And while those scenes only comprised a fraction of the film, they meant a lot to preservationists of the site.

According to Queens historian Greg Godfrey, the site of the 1964 World’s Fair was an ideal location to film for “Men in Black,” since the movie and the fair have a common central theme.

“‘Men in Black’ is about thinking of the future,” he said. “And featuring the pavilion in the film takes the hope and the belief in the future from 1964 and carries it through to modern-day culture.”

The central structure of the World’s Fair site was called the Tent of Tomorrow, according to Godfrey, and housed the County Fair of the Future.

And that enthusiasm and belief that the future would bring positive changes to the world make the site worth preserving, Godfrey said.

That is why he was happy to see the pavilion featured in the 1997 film, as well as in another movie adapted from a comic book, “Iron Man II.”

“It can’t get any cooler than that,” he said. “One of the main scenes takes place inside of the State Pavilion.”

Godfrey said he hopes the more the structures are shown off to audiences around the world, the easier it will be for the city to landmark the structures.

“If you don’t landmark this site, it is like you’re taking down the belief in the future,” he said.

The site is currently on the state and federal lists of landmarked sites but is not landmarked by the city. A New York City landmark status would provide the most help in refurbishing the dilapidated site.

But for now, the sure place to find the “Men in Black” in Queens is at Kaufman Astoria Studios, at 34-12 St. in Astoria, where a portion of the film is being shot.

“We chose Kaufman Astoria for the tremendously talented New York-based crews and their first-rate facilities,” according to Elzer.

After a reportedly rocky start, where portions of the film were shot before the entire script was written, the company began shooting again March 28 with a completed script and everything is now proceeding smoothly, he said.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

Updated 10:59 am, October 12, 2011
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