CHICAGO (CBS) — More than $3 billion – that is how much revenue was lost at McCormick Place during the pandemic shutdown.

And if you can imagine, that number was expected to be much higher. But as CBS 2 Investigator Megan Hickey reported Tuesday, we can thank a little something called Hollywood for stepping in.

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McCormick Place is the largest convention center in North America. Combined with the hotels and Wintrust Arena, they lost an enormous amount of business.

But the film and TV industry is now helping them on the road back to recovery.

“Chicago is going through quite a renaissance right now in the filming industry,” said McCormick Place General Manager David Causton.

Causton said the 2.6-million square-foot convention center came in under their projected operating losses this month, thanks to growing interest from those film and TV crews.

As of last week, 230 events had been canceled – and they would have attracted about 3.4 million attendees and nearly 2.2 million hotel room nights if they had gone ahead.

The total bill was about $3.05 billion in lost economic impact.

But a few no-spectator DePaul Blue Demons basketball games, and interest from TV and film producers, are slowly – very slowly – helping.

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“We’ve got all of the things we need right here in the city,” said Columbia College’s Ron Falzone. “We don’t need to import stuff.”

Falzone said he is not surprised that film and TV have been instrumental in McCormick Place’s early recovery.

“McCormick Place has some pretty good sound baffling, so that would be a pretty quick thing to be able to move into,” said Falzone, an associate professor in Directing and Cinema Studies at Columbia College Chicago. “It’s easier, faster, and less expensive for a production to come to Chicago than it is to most of these other cities.”

“The Lakeside dimension has been also something that’s been used in the past for ‘Batman’ – it was the location of the Bat Cave,” said Chicago Film Office Director Kwame Amoaku.

Amoaku said the film office has exceeded pre-pandemic production levels in the city, and the Lakeside Center space at McCormick Place is helping them recruit more projects.

“So we’re actually in this position where were running out of soundstage space to put all of these new productions that were coming in, so it was great that Lakeside was able to be utilized and offered as a soundstage space – and we’re currently marketing it as such,” he said.

For the month of March, the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority reported a net operating loss of about $7 million – but that was about $2 million under what they were projecting.

McCormick Place said right now they have 48 events scheduled between July and December 2021.

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As to a return to normal, the estimate right now that in the first quarter of 2022, McCormick Place will host 25 percent of its original events scheduled – and will return to 100 percent of original scheduling during 2024.

Megan Hickey