British film-TV production studios coming to Fayette

UPDATED — Pinewood Studios, responsible for the James Bond films — including the latest blockbuster, “Skyfall” — the Harry Potter series, the Hobbit and the musical “Les Misérables,” is in talks with local and Atlanta investors to locate a major film and television production facility on 288.5 acres in the center of Fayette County, The Citizen has learned.

Paperwork for rezoning the properties — code-named “Stargate” — was filed with the Fayette County Planning and Zoning Department Tuesday afternoon.

To be known as “Pinewood Atlanta,” Phase One of the development would be on the southwest corner of the intersection of Veterans Parkway and Sandy Creek Road in unincorporated Fayette County just west of Fayetteville.

The official news release from Fayette County Development Authority CEO Matt Forshee came Wednesday afternoon, following exclusive publication about the project in The Citizen:

“Investment group to develop major film production center in Fayette

“Group in discussions with UK’s Pinewood Studios to operate facility

“Fayetteville, Ga. – Rivers Rock, LLC, representing a group of Atlanta-area investors, announced today that it has filed development documents with the Fayette County Board of Commissioners to build what would be the largest film production complex in metro Atlanta on a 288-acre site in north-central Fayette County, Ga.

“The investment group also announced that it is in discussions with London-based Pinewood Studios Group to manage and operate the studio complex.

“Located 15 minutes south of Hartsfield-Jackson international Airport and 25 minutes south of downtown Atlanta, the proposed development site would initially include the construction of five purpose-built state-of-the-art sound stages.

“These soundstages would be designed to utilize the latest technology available in film production.

“Additionally, the developers will construct a series of administrative buildings and production offices as well as support buildings for set and effects development and space for film equipment vendors. Space will also be provided for backlot development for television and film location operations. The initial investment is expected to be $20 million.

“Construction is expected to begin this spring, pending permit approvals, and the initial phase is expected to be operational during the first quarter of 2014.

“The facility would be expanded in future phases as demand for sound stages and film production space increases, though no plans have been finalized yet on those expansions.

“Future development plans do include the establishment of a professional film production school in partnership with the studio to help grow Georgia’s film workforce.

“Discussions are currently ongoing with multiple higher education institutions to locate on the site,” the FCDA news release concludes.

Preliminary ideas include production offices, initial production stages, a mill works shop, a film school, a continuing education center, administration offices and a catering and culinary school, The Citizen has learned. While the studio has a reputation for world-class films, the Fayette location would focus on high quality television productions.

Preliminary plans ask for rezoning to accommodate 381 paved parking spaces.

The project will be unlike anything ever seen in Fayette County and promises to become an economic growth engine, according to those familiar with the plans.

Upwards of 500,000 square feet of sound stages, production facilities and ancillary offices are envisioned for the site, The Citizen has learned. The rezoning plans show at least eight such larger structures in addition to clusters of smaller buildings. Zoning being sought is GB (general business).

British-based Pinewood Studios Group is a leading provider of studio and related services to the worldwide film and entertainment industry. Headquartered 20 miles west of London, in Buckinghamshire, the company has more than 1 million sq. ft. of stage and studio space in five countries.

The world-famous “007 stage,” at 59,000 sq. ft., is the largest of the company’s more than 60 stages and studios spread around the world. The entire James Bond series, including the most recent “Skyfall,” was filmed on Pinewood stages.

Wikipedia lists 121 movies filmed on Pinewood stages in its 77-year history, 42 of them since 2000. Recent blockbusters include “Les Miserables,” “Prometheus,” “Snow White and the Huntsmen,” “The Hobbit,” the first and second Harry Potter films, and “Dark Knight.”

In addition to movies, Pinewood stages are home to television shows, commercials, and more. Pinewood Group has three locations in England, plus facilities in Toronto, Berlin, the Dominican Republic and Malaysia.

Pinewood itself does not develop film projects; instead it provides the production infrastructure to actually get the project onto film: sound stages, sets, lighting and the like.

The studio was founded in 1936 by J. Arthur Rank, a wealthy flour magnate and devout Methodist. Rank’s interest in the film industry was born of his vision for making films with a religious and moral message.

A major draw for film companies to locate in Georgia involves tax credits.

State tax credits adopted a handful of years ago have played a major role in improving Georgia’s profile as the Hollywood of the south.

Under current law, production companies who spend a minimum of $500,000 get a 20 percent transferable tax credit, which jumps by an additional 10 percent if the company uses an imbedded state promo logo in the film, TV series, music video or video game project, according to the Georgia Department of Economic Development.

Moreover, there is no cap on the credit, which means the more production companies spend here, the more they will save here too.

In the 2011 fiscal year, the entertainment industry spent more than $689.3 million in Georgia, according to GDED. Last year, some 333 productions filmed in Georgia including feature films, TV series, commercials and music videos.

The state tax credits offered by Georgia apply to all in and out-of-state labor working in Georgia, and standard fringe benefits qualify for the credit as well.

Fayette County has become qualified as a “camera ready” community through GDED to assist with location scouting and other efforts.

Fayette has hosted several movies in recent years including portions of “Sweet Home Alabama” which were filmed at Starr’s Mill and also “Joyful Noise” which was filmed at several local churches along with a big scene at the Frederick Brown Jr. Amphitheater in Peachtree City.

Fayette has also hosted the “Drop Dead Diva” television show on the Lifetime network, which filmed in a modified hangar at Falcon Field Airport and on various locations around the area.

Nearby Senoia has been the scene stealer on the southside when it comes to TV shows by hosting the production of the top-rated cable drama “The Walking Dead.” In fact, charming downtown Senoia itself plays a backdrop, down to the unkempt landscaping in the medians as an homage to a world in which humans are on the run from zombies.

In addition to providing tax breaks and location scouting, GDED also offers a help wanted hotline and website to help production companies recruit cast and crew.

The 30-acre campus of River’s Elementary School will also play a role in the overall development, although no final deal has been reached on the property owned by the Fayette County Board of Education. The elementary school is expected to receive a makeover and become a campus of Savannah College of Arts and Design, as detailed in a nearby story.

— Reporting by Joyce Beverly, John Munford and Ben Nelms.

dar thompson
dar thompson's picture
Joined: 08/23/2006
You are correct...

I'll give you that one...not enough land here. The initial project was on a much smaller scale and was sited for PTC. Nevertheless, we (PTC) have a reputation of taking a great project and turning it into something that ends up being less than average. The original plans for the "Target Center" at Kedron were much nicer than what we ended up with. There was a beautiful retail center slated for hwy 54 that never got we will end up with a gas station. I'm sure that increases home values.

Just so we are clear, I'm fine if we don't build another retail building in PTC but the quality of life we have here has to be off-set by tax revenue from somewhere. Tax revenue has to come from retail or the citizens...pick door A or door B. There are those who want to keep the "quality of life", but don't want to pay for it (taxes) and at the same time don't want any further developement. That logic simply will not work.

I have no interest in the Kedron Field House...period. From a business perspective the value of the Kedron Fieldhouse is a negative $3,000,000. In other words the only thing that would makes sense is if you paid someone $3,000,000 to take it....that's what the math says.

Robert W. Morgan
Robert W. Morgan's picture
Joined: 10/26/2005
Others will be paying that tax - not us - revised

Out of towners staying here for all kinds of reasons once the project gets underway - maybe even before that during construction will be other people paying that hotel/motel tax. Sure, some taxpayers paying for their trainees (thanks for stating the obvious mr. mayor) or the occasional couple seeking afternoon delight may be paying that tax as well, but let's not get bogged down in trivia.

The important thing is how are we going to use that money wisely? Can't go into the general fund, must be directed to convention, visitor, tourism. Fine, let's try to expand that somehow into economic development. And let's not hear from Brown and Haddix and other crybabies who think that is "illegal". Be creative and do things that are so obviously connected to visitors and tourism that it can't be questioned - 1 simple idea is to partner with the conference center to host weekend fly-in or drive-in getaways for business owners and their spouse where they would experience the golf course, restaurants, some housing, the industrial park - in short a 2-day sales pitch on PTC. They might come back and use the conference center for a business meeting, they might want to open a branch office here or they might start thinking about relocating their business here. Or, they might just have a good time, go home and tell someone else about PTC.That's a lot more than we are doing now.

How can that hurt? It can't and it might help. Just let Nancy handle it - keep the politicians far away from it, at least until November.

It would cost no more than $3-400 per visitation and you could probably get a volunteer from DAPC to be a tour guide. Do 2 of them a month year round and see some results. What's not to like?

Revised Fri AM - So what do I find in my e-mail this AM? A note from one of the managers at the time at the Wyndham saying that this kind of partnership was proposed to DAPC, Logsdon and the city manager 3 or 4 years ago. The only cost would have been food and beverage - rooms were comped, van was used for free - because on weekends they are not busy unless there is an event. I guess cost of golf would be added. And guess what? No response, no follow up. Real professional.

John Mrosek
John Mrosek's picture
Joined: 06/07/2011
Good idea Morgan

Let me concur with Jim Richter--- the community introduction idea you have is a good idea. This is a wonderful area to live in. Maybe a visitor might like PTC or other parts of Fayette for a business relocation but prefer to live in Sharpsburg, Brooks, Fayetteville or Senoia. That's ok, too. The whole area down here is great. Your use of the hotel motel tax is a good idea !

Robert W. Morgan
Robert W. Morgan's picture
Joined: 10/26/2005
Thanks. Sometimes good ideas get acted upon.

Let's hope this is one of those times. I would encourage everyone running for mayor and council this year (3 seats are up) to understand that this is a huge opportunity to do something about job creation and business relocation. It also solves some of the budget problems long-term if everything else is managed properly.

I'm sure there are ancillary business that offer support functions to a studio operation and probably some vendors as well who can fill up some of our office buildings. The catering business suddenly looks attractive. The only downside in this is that Senoia's new homes will really benefit because of location and price, but PTC sewer won't be seeing any of the revenue because of the ham-handed way we handled their expansion request. Live and learn.

And yes, Spyglass, the Wyndham is certainly willing and able to participate in anything that helps the city grow. I know of one mayoral candidate who is meeting with them next week. He'll be on the leading edge of this and others will have to play catchup.

New mayor and councilpeople coming in just as the studio construction begins. That makes it the biggest thing a new mayor and council needs to address. Please vote for the candidates that understand that promoting our city is a necessity (not an optional luxury) and pledges to be creative with the hotel/motel tax. Sure some things are illegal, but many more things are legal - let's focus on them. And then get the politicians out of the way after it is set up and let Nancy run with it.

Davids mom
Davids mom's picture
Joined: 10/30/2005
The New Project

How exciting! There are definite perks for living in close proximity to a 'movie / TV' studio. Peachtree City is listed in the current Atlanta magazine in 'Venue Spotlight' as a highly desirable corporate meeting destination and a little slice of residential heaven. Congratulations on the new addition!

Spyglass's picture
Joined: 01/28/2008
The Wyndham appears to be reaching out the the community

based on ads I have seen in the Citizen lately. Discounts etc..

moelarrycurly's picture
Joined: 10/17/2010
They have a new

general manager. The Hilton is giving them a run for their money, too.

americanpatriots's picture
Joined: 04/05/2010
Robert Morgan - Others will be paying the tax

You have offerred some excellent suggestions and I hope the ones capable of making this happen will follow up on them. Showcasing PTC as you suggested would certainly help!

dar thompson
dar thompson's picture
Joined: 08/23/2006

You are correct on the Peachtree City issue (all the way around). I'm sure Peachtree City was considered, but for a variety of reasons was veto'ed. We do not have a good reputation for making smart economic decisions or working well with others. If it took the PTC government 6 months and 2 public surveys on a gas cart issue can you image what time-frame a project like this would have looked like.

I couldn't agree with you more on the hotel/motel tax...additional revnue at no direct cost to the citizen/taxpayer. Why don't you run for office?

Don Haddix
Don Haddix's picture
Joined: 08/17/2007
Haddix: Dar

PTC, as said, did not have the room for the development available. Projects like this come via the State Development Authority.

Totally wrong on the H/M Tax not being paid by PTC taxpayers. NCR alone does 120 trainees a week. Do the math on week long stays for each. They pay H/M.

You are simply wrong there are no cost to taxpayers.

pumpkin's picture
Joined: 08/19/2009
Thank You Mayor / Here They Go Again

These guys are like the weekend players who sit on the sofa, drink the beer while stuffing (with both hands), food into their mouths and probably the only time they are in heaven. NFL wantabees who have never even picked up the ball. The knowitalls who again will not (not just cannot) attend the meeting, make the meeting and get the facts before jumping up and down, hotdogs in hand bellowing "go" for whatever peaks their antenna that day. Its not so much they dont have some of the facts, its their mindless presentation, personal commentary and remarks and lack of respect to the readers.
Most everyone knows what you just stated to be fact. Its the weekend players and wannabees that just have to stir it up, put their name out there, but knowing they will never be brave and intelligent enough to "Ever" be a real player to play the real game.

Theprez's picture
Joined: 12/07/2005
Pumpkin Sucking up again to hizhonor

Pumpkin are you still looking for a job? if so all your sucking up to hizhonor is just hurting you, your comments alone prove you are not worthy on gainful employment. I would not hire you as a dishwasher, and your question about Ryan makes me wonder who reads to you, did he not state what is occupation was in the first comment of this forum? Are you scared hizhonor will not be reelected? Sheesh, I will join the Saturday gang and try my best to ignore Pumpkin, or I get the Pumpkin name, a pumpkin is full of mush, oh now I can relax

dar thompson
dar thompson's picture
Joined: 08/23/2006

Let me put it another cost to the citizens who rely on creative ways to lesson their tax burden while maintaining the quality of life that is PTC.

dar thompson
dar thompson's picture
Joined: 08/23/2006

I respect your position but we will simply have to agree to disagree. It is obvious that your view of economics and my view of economics are vastly different.

However, you are wrong...this project happened simply because of the foresight of several local businessmen who have been working on this deal/project for over two years. I think they are to be applauded for their accomplishment and the value they have added to our county. I'm sure there will be many at all levels of government who will want to take credit but there is only one reason this deal happened...really hard work and longstanding perseverance.

It does need to be noted that Matt Forshee(FCDA)was greatly involved in making this deal happen in our County. He should be commended as well.

Mike King
Mike King's picture
Joined: 11/29/2006
Mayor, Please....

...Stay out of this and have pumkin make you a nice cup of tea, for it is obvious that the fact this project chose Fayette County is that you had no involvement. Further, your silly argument that taxpayers do have a cost in the hotel/motel tax is like saying the residents foot the bill for street maintenance for those who transit our town without stopping.

Give us a break.

Larry.Sussberg's picture
Joined: 01/20/2013

State Development worked through FCDA....

That's why a PTC Development person should be working at FCDA reporting to the city manager.
If we want more development, then hire a more qualified and seasoned development manager. We don't need 5 part time volunteers doing this! It's just more unecessary government!

Our development space is limited anyway....

DAPC is dead, leave it that way! We do not need the financial risk of another independent bonding authority.

Spyglass's picture
Joined: 01/28/2008
I know of a HUGE worldwide corporate travel agency

that has an office right here in PTC. IT NEVER comes into play, the Hotel/Motel tax that is. Their clients NEVER ask about it. They have clients MUCH bigger than NCR, all over the world....NCR likes their location, they will pay what it takes to get their trainees here...

When/if you travel do you ask about the hotel/motel tax rate?

The Hotel/Motel tax increase is a no brainer...roll with it.

Husband and Fat...
Husband and Father of 2's picture
Joined: 07/23/2012
Hotel Tax

When my family travels and stays in a hotel, I want to know the room rate, if its in a safe area, and if it is clean. All other issues are moot, unless we specifically want something specific like a pool for the kids.

I always figure the taxes are going to be equal in each location, so those fees don't really matter.
My wife however checks on line to see if there have been any bedbug reports for the hotel. (NYC has an epidemic)

When I have to travel for work and the company makes the reservations, we already have corporate rates and our travel agents don't pay much attention to taxes either.

Theprez's picture
Joined: 12/07/2005
H/M Tax

It is a given, just like your paycheck, every time you receive one tax is taken. I look at the tax on my bill mainly out of curiosity, but if you want to play you got to pay, and if you cannot afford the H/M how can you afford the bill. I have put friends and family up at local hotels, i.e. in town for special events, and to recoup the tax I inquire if they have a discount for locals, knock on wood the place I use has bee very generous, 30 to 40% generous, so there are ways to save on the tax if you just use your head, and like your wife I check for bed bugs because once I had to get some to run to Wal Mart, only store open at 6 AM, and pic me up some boxers, socks, pants and shirt, I changed clothes in the hotel lobby and left suitcase and a weeks worth of clothes in my room because it was infested. It was a name brand four star hotel. They offered to wash and send my belonging to me but I said no thanks I will send you a bill, and they paid it believe it or not. The reimbursement is why I did not mention the name or city, they did what was right. I stayed elsewhere in that town and saw their clean up effort, 16 rooms on one floor were stripped bare, treated and completely refurbished

tikigod's picture
Joined: 04/19/2006

This, along with the SCAD is incredible news for Fayette!

When is that last time we have had a significant positive thing happen in this county. This is big. This is a game changer for the county.

I imagine both these projects will have significant ripple effects throughout the county.

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