When Yankee third-baseman Alex Rodriguez moved into his $24 million mansion on Miami Beach's North Bay Road last December, next door neighbor Irwin Friedman assumed the celebrity slugger would want some privacy. Instead, A-Rod immediately started renting out his bachelor pad to camera crews shooting everything from X-Factor to a Victoria's Secret commercial.
"Suddenly I had a MGM movie lot right next to my house," Friedman says.
But the dispute over Miami Beach film permits goes far deeper than a personal flap between Friedman and his famous neighbor. Instead, the issue has become a simmering civil war that threatens the city's booming $90 million industry.
Friedman, a Hungarian-born Holocaust survivor, may be the one leading the fight for harsher permit rules, but he's far from alone.
Buzz doorbells in any of Miami Beach's more exclusive neighborhoods, and you'll find complaints about the influx of the moviemakers renting out private residences.
"It's a pain in the neck," says Cesar Valdesuso, a San Marino Island resident who is surrounded by houses rented out for film and photo shoots. "We have complained to the city bitterly about it, but these movie people have the attitude that they own the world."
Nearly 1,000 permits were doled out last year. Although Miami Beach doesn't charge for the permits, movie executives and city officials say that the productions brought more than $87 million to the local economy.
According to records obtained from Miami Beach's film office, roughly 120 houses on the island have obtained permits in the past three years for a total of more than 740 days of filming.
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The residences with the most permit requests in that time period include A-Rod's bachelor pad, Chris Bosh's mansion nearby (although the permits were requested under the previous owner), and the San Marino villa belonging to the ex-wife of NBA All-Star Reggie Miller.
Stay tuned for our in-depth look at the film fight that threatens to sink the island's fragile industry, including stories of bizarre music videos, disastrous reality TV shoots, and... yes, more on A-Rod's megalomaniacal movie mansion.