ST. PETERSBURG — Hallmark movies are those guilty pleasures countless people won’t admit they watch. Yet they do, hidden in the comfortable confines of their homes.
The next time Tampa Bay area residents are secretly enjoying one, they may spot familiar locations.
Garden Party, slated to premiere on the Hallmark Channel in April, has been filming in St. Petersburg throughout February. It is set to wrap at the end of the month.
“It’s a nice thing to happen here. Any woman 25 or older who I speak with loves Hallmark,” said St.Petersburg-Clearwater film commissioner Tony Armer, who admitted many men do, too.
Pinellas County locations featured include Vinoy Park and the Mahaffey Theater, Armer said.
“They are all over St. Petersburg. It’s a nice little love letter to St. Pete.”
Executive producer Lincoln Lageson said Garden Party is about a woman who honors her father’s memory by continuing the community garden he built in St. Petersburg. But the future of the garden is threatened when a condo builder buys the property for development.
He would not divulge if the garden is saved or if the two sides fall in love. But, come on.
Garden Party stars Sara Rue, whose credits include The Big Bang Theory and Rules of Engagement, and Jordan Bridges — son of Beau Bridges, nephew of Jeff Bridges — who has been on Dawson’s Creek and Charmed.
In January, the Hillsborough County Commission agreed to offer $122,464 in incentive money to Garden Party if producers spent 10 times that in Hillsborough. The county report expected eight production days in Tampa and seven in St. Petersburg.
But executive producer Lageson said that all 15 days are happening in St. Petersburg. Hillsborough film commissioner Tyler Martinolich could not be reached for comment.
Armer said he will not have a local spend estimate for his side of the bridge until filming wraps, but he expects the production to apply for his county incentive. Hillsborough and Pinellas governments have separate programs that provide a production 10 percent of what is spent in the respective county.
Garden Party is a “movie being shown on Hallmark but not a movie made by Hallmark,” Armer said, the case with most of the popular holiday movies on the channel. It’s being produced independently and televised on Hallmark.
But it has all the staples of those feel good flicks, Armer said, that often “get higher ratings than broadcast television movies” even if no one wants to admit they watch.
Times staff photographer Scott Keeler contributed to this report. Contact Paul Guzzo at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow @PGuzzoTimes.