Big growth likely for Georgia's film industry
FILE - This Jan. 24, 2008 file photo shows actors, from left, Mathieu Amalric, Gemma Arterton, Olga Kurylenko, Daniel Craig, Judy Dench, and director Marc Forster posing at a photo call for the Bond film, "Quantum of Solace," at Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire, England. Georgia’s film industry is booming and big plans are in the works for major studio projects. Of those studio projects in the works, one being planned in Fayette County, a short drive south of Atlanta, could be a game changer. British film studio Pinewood Shepperton PLC, home to the James Bond franchise, has reportedly been in talks with a group of investors to manage and operate the facility. It would be Pinewood’s first production facility in the U.S. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth, File)
ATLANTA (AP) — A few years ago, Georgia was locked in a bidding war with North Carolina over the Disney movie, "The Last Song," starring Miley Cyrus.
Both states wanted the movie to film in their state, and North Carolina was close to sealing the deal with an attractive tax incentive package. But Georgia snapped up the production, largely because it had recently expanded its own tax credit for films.
The state hasn't looked back since. Not only are TV shows like "The Walking Dead" and films like "The Hunger Games" sequel filmed in Georgia, but tens of millions of dollars are being invested to build up critical infrastructure. No fewer than five major studio developments or expansions have been announced in recent months with the goal of luring big-budget blockbusters.
"It really is about the whole package," said Lee Thomas, director of the Georgia Film, Music & Digital Entertainment Office. "They can do everything here now."
Last fiscal year, productions filmed in Georgia generated an estimated $3.1 billion in economic activity, a 29 percent increase from the year before, according to state estimates. And Thomas said that will only increase with the studio projects in the works that will add large soundstages and back lots to lure big productions, such as "Iron Man 3," which Georgia wasn't able to accommodate. The state didn't have a studio that fit the requirements of the film's production company.
Of the studio projects in the works, one being planned in Fayette County, a short drive south of Atlanta, could be a game changer. British film studio Pinewood Shepperton PLC, home to the James Bond franchise, has reportedly been in talks with a group of investors to manage and operate the facility. It would be Pinewood's first production facility in the U.S. Recent films shot at Pinewood Studios, outside London, include the coming Angelina Jolie film, "Maleficent" and "Jack Ryan," directed by Sir Kenneth Branagh.
The project, once finalized, would underscore how much Georgia has become a film destination and be another sign that California continues to struggle with runaway production.
A survey last year found that California lost $3 billion in wages from 2004 to 2011 because of film and TV production moving to other states and countries, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times. Half the wages went to states such as Georgia, North Carolina and Louisiana that offer tax incentives and rebates to the industry.
Representatives of Pinewood declined comment on the plan, and the head of Fayette County's development agency would say only that discussions continue between the company and a group of Georgia-based investors on the state-of-the-art studio complex, which would sit on 288 acres and include at least five soundstages.
"It takes the state to a whole new level," said Matt Forshee, president of the Fayette County Development Authority, who has been closely involved in the project. "When you look at the films that have filmed in Georgia, for the most part, they have been smaller budget films, in the range of $20-25 million. This allows us to open up to larger budget productions, which means more expenditures occurring within the state, which becomes a bigger return on the investment on the state level for the tax credits."