On the Charles?

Since the days of "Love Story," Harvard and Cambridge have been an enticing background for Hollywood moviemakers.

In the past year, filmmakers have chosen Harvard's setting for two new flicks, "With Honors" starring Joe Pesci, and most recently, "The Firm," which brought Tom Cruise and a mass of eager onlookers to Mass. Ave.

While the presence of lights, cameras and film trucks may be an annoyance to University officials and the Public Works Department, the business community, of course, has loved the attention. Cambridge businesses are thrilled at the publicity and increase in customers, as fans flock to the city to glimpse their favorite movie stars at work.

During last month's making of "The Firm," employees of The Ultimate Bagel Company were shocked by the entrance of customer Tom Cruise and the filming of the store's front for a possible movie clip.

"We think it's wonderful. It's the lifeblood of business to have that kind of advertising," said Ultimate Bagel President Joe LaMacchia.


Lauri Gors, director of public relations for the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce, said filming is beneficial to the city's image, as well as its economy.

"[Filming] generates excitement, encourages people to come, and educates people about what's here," Gors said. "It also encourages people to eat at local restaurants and shop at local retailers. We are very pleased."

Hollywood's presence has not been accepted without some reservations.

George Teso, director of traffic and parking in Cambridge, said care must be taken to monitor the actions of filmmakers and not allow city residents to be inconvenienced. He said present restrictions prevent the closing of the Square and filming during peak traffic hours.

"Years ago we had a lot of problems," Teso said, "If we didn't have someone there all the time, they took advantage and did what they weren't supposed to. It works out better now that we always have officials present during filming."

Teso said that when film crews block city streets they can do more harm than good to the local economy. "Today, the economy is bad and closing city streets where businesses are creates problems," Teso said.

Requests to film in Cambridge must be approved by City Manager Robert W. Healy. Various city departments then coordinate the closing of city streets and other details.

While the University has been the fictional setting for most of the movies which are set in Cambridge, actual filming is no longer permitted inside the Yard.

Harvard's director of news and public affairs, Peter Costa, said filming has not been allowed in the Yard since "Love Story," because it is disruptive to the learning environment.

"This is not a movie set," Costa said. "There must be a real connection with the school for filming to occur. Sometimes these are not the best movies, and they don't always portray Harvard in the best light."

However, he said filming around the school's exterior cannot be prevented. "They have creative license, as long as they film in the public streets," he said.