Primary filming for the made-in-Boston flick "The Zookeeper" starring Kevin James
and Rosario Dawson kicked off Monday, July 20 at the park's elaborate mini-zoo
set near the Giraffe Entrance of the Franklin Park Zoo located at 1 Franklin Park Rd.

Slotted to film during regular park hours from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. for the next few
weeks, "The Zookeeper" set resembled a Hollywood-style movie lot swarming with
production staff on golf carts and lighting rigs peering behind off-limits structures
built for filming purposes only.

In "The Zookeeper," James plays a zoo caretaker who consults with the animals in
an attempt to learn their methods of dating and mating to help him win back the
woman of his dreams.

John Linehan, president and CEO of Zoo New England admits in a statement here
that they decided to postpone the opening of its new, free-flight budgie aviary in
order to accommodate "The Zookeeper" filming.

“All of the improvements we’ve made to Franklin Park Zoo in the past few years
have drawn the attention of people and businesses throughout New England, and
now Hollywood as well," he says here, unveiling a new map of the zoo with the
film set highlighted in purple. "The selection of Massachusetts as a place for this
movie filming is going to be a huge economic stimulus for the state, which is one
of the biggest reasons we made this opportunity a priority."

Linehan continues, "Not only will it give Franklin Park Zoo a national reputation,
but it will have a tremendous impact in terms of job creation in the Boston area as
well as enhance our contribution to the very important tourism industry.”

Production crews plan to shell out major money to spruce up the Franklin Park Zoo,
with renovations and landscaping scheduled to benefit the non-profit zoo for an
extended period even after the production is done.

Making the trek from Birds’ World to Serengeti Crossing recently became a little
more arduous at Franklin Park Zoo. Instead of taking a direct path, visitors must
make their way around a massive movie set, a fake zoo within the real zoo, in one
of the main walkways through the exhibits.

There, on part of the unused outdoor gorilla exhibit near the zoo’s rear entrance,
crews have been laying the groundwork to begin filming MGM’s live-action comedy
“The Zookeeper,’’.

The set is forcing patrons in the back of the zoo to make their way to the other
exhibits by walking through the Tropical Forest, which features Little Joe and the
other gorillas, or on another side trail.

“It’s a little inconvenient,’’ said Mary Ward, a Cambridge nanny, with her young
charge in tow.

John Linehan, president of Zoo New England, said zoo officials have created
alternate routes that lead patrons around the movie set. No exhibits have been
shut down because of the movie set, he said.

National Night Out celebrations, hosted by the Dorchester zoo each year along
with the police, will go on as planned in August, Linehan added.

Filming is scheduled to begin July 20 and end in October. Linehan said the zoo has
received no complaints since workers began building the movie set more than two
months ago. “I've heard people who are sort of blown away by the fact,’’ he said.
“They've been quite taken aback by seeing how elaborate the set construction is.’’

The financial impact has been good as well. Linehan and the movie’s producer,
Charles Newirth, said the zoo received a “substantial’ location fee, though neither
would say how much. The city’s Parks and Recreation Department also got a boost
and is getting $20,000 from the movie “strictly for Franklin Park,’’ said Mary Hines,
the department’s spokeswoman.

Newirth said Franklin Park Zoo was picked because a number of people in the film
were also involved in other productions based in the Boston area, including “Paul
Bart: Mall Cop,’’ which also stars James. “The zoo worked for us,’’ Newirth said. “It
just has a lot of elements that we needed.’’ Newirth said filming will take place
both day and night.

The movie will star Rosario Dawson and James, who plays a lonely zookeeper who
gets tips from the animals on how to win back the woman who broke his heart.

Early this week, crews were building the make-believe zoo. A giant stone wall,
with elaborate features, towered beyond the dumpsters and yellow-taped
barricade. Telescopes, some still in their packaging, were on the ground. Workers
on their ladders were installing street lamps.

Children with their parents did double-takes
as the passed the movie set, uttering “oohs’’
and “aahs.’’

“Wow. This is incredibly awesome,’’ said
Marysa Lee, who was with her younger sister,
Samantha, and father, Darren, all regular zoo
visitors. “It think it’s really amazing,’’ she said.
“It’s real stone. They've got the gazebo thing

Brent Worry, who was visiting with friends from
Auburn, Maine, also said he was wowed. “I’m
kind of in awe about it,’’ he said. “It caught my

No one seemed to mind that the set is taking
up residence in the middle of a main walkway.
“From the looks of it, it’s out of the way,’’ said
Joshua Laboy of Mattapan with his two children.
“It’s not taking up too much space. All it does
is takes up the front of the Tropical Forest.’’

But other patrons said walking around the set can be a drag, if only a little. “Just
a little bit,’’ said Ward. “But it’s not a big deal.’’
'The Zookeeper' filming at the Franklin Park Zoo
by Roland Hansen
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Set of Zookeeper in Franklin Park Zoo