L.A. studio signs on for Gwinnett film complex

6:21 p.m Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014 Business

A prominent California movie studio company is joining developer Jim Jacoby to operate a massive production and education campus in Gwinnett County, amid a continuing boom in the state’s movie business.

MBS3, the operator of a large production campus near Los Angeles where noted director James Cameron and Marvel Studios have shot films, has joined Jacoby Development to operate and market the planned Atlanta Media Campus near I-85 and Jimmy Carter Boulevard. The mixed-use complex is expected to open next year.

MBS3 joins other big-name film production facility operators to come to Georgia, including storied studio operators Pinewood Studios in Fayette County and EUE/Screen Gems in Atlanta. The news also follows filmmaker Tyler Perry’s plans to enlarge his operations with a 300-plus-acre complex at Fort McPherson.

“We are fortunate to be teaming with one of the most experienced owners and managers of independent studios and accompanying production service providers in the country,” Jacoby said in a news release.

MBS3 operates MBS Media Campus in California, where Cameron, director of blockbusters “Titanic” and “Avatar,” bases his production company. The California studio has hosted production of big budget films and television series, including “Iron Man 2” and the ABC drama “Revenge.”

In 2008, Georgia enacted some of the most lucrative incentives for the movie and television industry in the nation, and a bonanza in new TV shows and films followed. Hollywood spent $1.4 billion in producing movies and TV programs in Georgia in fiscal year 2014, a five-fold increase compared to 2008.

Top state lawmakers, including Gov. Nathan Deal, have said the establishment of new movie studio campuses is a sign of permanence for the industry.

Critics say the tax credits, designed to lure productions to Georgia, are a costly giveaway to a rich industry and create mainly lower-wage jobs for locals. If those incentives were ever to dry up, Georgia’s movie business would vanish.

Lee Thomas, deputy commissioner for the Georgia Film, Music and Digital Entertainment Office, heralded news of the new studio development.

“The film and television studios that are locating or expanding in Georgia are what create permanent jobs for Georgia’s skilled industry professionals,” she said. “As more studios and support companies open their doors the level of film and television business is significantly increased, which helps maintain our growth in the industry.”

Jacoby developed Midtown Atlanta’s Atlantic Station and is building the headquarters for Porsche’s North American division at the former Ford plant near Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

Plans for the 114-acre Atlanta Media Campus include six soundstages, production offices, workshops, 300 hotel rooms, student housing and a film school, apartments and retail.

“It will have a huge economic impact,” Jacoby said. “Hollywood comes in and puts a little gold glitter into the whole area.”

The site is part of the OFS industrial plant near Norcross, and OFS will continue operations on the remaining 66 acres of the property.

Jason MacDonald and his wife, Catherine Dyer, have benefited from Georgia’s growing film industry and see the new studio as a sign of continued strength. They are two of the founders of Drama Inc., a Grant Park outfit that offers workshops, classes, head shots, coaching and other services to fellow actors.

“Our classes are full and the demand for coaching, audition taping, workshops, seminars and head shots is huge,” MacDonald said. “And with our own busy acting careers as well we can barely keep up.”

The huge new studio bodes well for future business, too.

“In the last six months we have seen an influx of actors from L.A.,” MacDonald said. “People who had some success out there but have heard that Atlanta is the place to be. The result of this has been increased competition for actors.”

In some cases demand is outstripping supply, he said.

“We are still hearing that when it comes to crews there are not enough qualified people,” he said.

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