"Gooood morning, BAAAL-ti-more!" burbles Tracy Turnblad, the zaftig heroine of Hairspray, as she skips down a Highlandtown block in the opening song-and-dance number of the 2007 movie-musical. The scene onscreen looks authentic, right down to the marble stoops attached to the Formstone row houses, but anyone with access to imdb.com (The Internet Movie Database) knows the truth. The scene wasn't filmed in Highlandtown. In fact, it wasn't even filmed in Baltimore—or Maryland, for that matter. It was filmed on a Toronto soundstage, just another in a recent string of major Hollywood productions that have flirted with shooting in Baltimore only to be seduced by competing cities and states offering larger tax incentives to filmmakers.
How did this happen? How did Baltimore, once voted by Moviemaker Magazine as one of the "Top 10 U.S. Cities" for filmmakers, lose its preferred status?