Spot that Federal Building in Your Favorite Flick

“House of Cards” features the Baltimore U.S. Custom House. “House of Cards” features the Baltimore U.S. Custom House. Netflix

Some of the handsomest and most historic federal properties perform double duty for the taxpayer when the General Services Administration teams up with some of Hollywood’s top television and movie producers.

Though the agency has been accused of “sitting on our assets” when it undergoes a lengthy process for selling unneeded properties, it has raised more than $500,000 in the past three years simply by charging fees to entertainment industry location managers who crave a backdrop for their actors in the form of a federal office building, historic landmark or port of entry.

GSA “is using creative approaches to reinvest in our nation’s infrastructure,” said a Thursday blogpost by communications assistant Matthew Burrell, noting that the fees go toward maintenance and renovation. The lessors “pay for staff and utilities required, just as they would if leasing space from the private sector,” the blog noted.

More than 50 productions have been given licenses under GSA’s Outleasing Program in the past quarter century.

Highlights include the current smash Washington-corruption television saga “House of Cards,” created by Netflix, which features Kevin Spacey working out of what not all viewers realize is the Baltimore U.S. Custom House.

In the 1980s, the parade scene in the classic film “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” showcased the Chicago Federal Building. And makers of the 1991 Oliver Stone conspiracy-theory Kennedy assassination dramatization paid GSA fees to film at the John Minor Wisdom U.S. Court of Appeals in New Orleans.

Other examples include the David W. Dyer Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in Miami, which was featured in the 1981 journalism drama “Absence of Malice,” and the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House in New York, which can be seen in the 2010 ballet thriller “Black Swan.” From the agency’s point of view, the films don’t have to be high art to deliver needed funds for federal building upkeep.

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