F’ville’s 1st film: $150 million-plus blockbuster

Sign in front of Pinewood Atlanta Studios on Sandy Creek Road. Soundstages are in the background. Photo/Ben Nelms.

A “large blockbuster film” costing between $150 million and $200 million will be the first production to get underway in the new year at the Pinewood Atlanta Studios in Fayetteville, according to Vice President of Operations Brian Cooper.

“We’re close to signing our first client. It will be considered a ‘tent pole’ feature,” Cooper said, noting the film jargon that is synonymous with the term “blockbuster” that most people outside the industry recognize as being a major motion picture. “Tent pole features are generally considered to be $150-200 million productions.”

Cooper’s comments came at the Sept. 18 meeting of the Peachtree City Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Cooper last week provided a updated view of the impact of the new film and television studio operation that not all in the Fayette County community have come to understand.

Among a variety of comments meant to bring Pinewood into clearer focus, Cooper explained the vision that the emerging studio property in Fayetteville will become one of the premier film facilities in the world. For starters, the first movie production on the lot when the studio opens in January may well be a “blockbuster” production.

Cooper noted that ground was broken for the Pinewood site in May. Since that time, and sometimes daily, the situation on the site continues to see dramatic changes unfold.

“I can leave in the afternoon and come back the next morning and something is different,” Cooper said.

Construction at Pinewood Atlanta Studios continues to unfold. The exteriors of the Phase 1A soundstages and workshop spaces are out of the ground and work on the interiors are underway and will be complete in time for the studio to open in January. That is when the first client is due to begin an on-site presence that will lead to the first movie production in Fayette County.

Cooper did not divulge the movie’s title or the production company involved. But he did provide a limited amount of information, with a hint at the impact the studio is expected to bring to Fayette County.


Pinewood Atlanta Studios outlook

  • Studios will open January 2014
  • 1st film to be a ‘tent pole’ feature costing $150-$200 million
  • School for film trades adjacent to Pinewood may be open by fall 2014
  • Conversations underway about magnet high school
  • Need for vendors will bring ‘people and rooftops in’
  • Pinewood will rely on local vendors whenever possible
  • Home Depot setting up store onsite for studio use only
  • Pinewood counting on Southern hospitality to welcome film trade newcomers to community

Georgia through its tax incentives to the movie and television industries has attracted an increasing volume of productions to the state. Georgia currently ranks third behind California and New York in terms of movies and television shows produced in the 50 states.

“What Georgia hasn’t had is the facility for large-scale blockbusters,” Cooper noted, adding that all that will change in a few months when Pinewood opens for business.

A part of the work required in the industry is post-production, Cooper said. While almost never done in Georgia, the studio in Fayette County will have the infrastructure in place for those needs, he said.

“This will bring people and rooftops in,” said Cooper.

Movies and television shows cannot be produced without a host of “vendors” supplying a complete list of everything needed for those productions. A sampling of vendors includes companies that provide lighting, props, make-up, food service, cameras, sets and scenery.

While the list is seemingly endless, a perspective on the number of people needed to make a movie work can be seen as the credits role at the end of any movie. And that speaks to another facet of Pinewood’s operations in Fayetteville.

“We’ve had 600 inquiries from vendors about coming here,” Cooper said. Of those that make the move to Fayette County, some of those vendors will have offices on the studio site while others are expected to set up shop in other locations in Fayetteville and Fayette County.

Even if only a small percentage of those inquires materialize it is easy to see the local economic impact Pinewood Atlanta Studios will bring.

Cooper emphasized that Pinewood will rely on local vendors whenever local services can be used.

“The community is important to us. So far we’ve had a fantastic reception. The local vendors have been great,” Cooper said. “When (other) vendors need services, we ask that they use local services first and Georgia services second.”

Cooper in the presentation also noted a variation on the theme as it applies to a specific vendor operation. He said Home Depot is expected to open a facility on the studio site that will only serve Pinewood. When production is not underway, the Home Depot employees are expected to transfer temporarily to the company’s stores in Fayetteville and Peachtree City, he said.

Falcon Field is another location that is expected to benefit from the Pinewood operation. Studio executives and others are expected to utilize the Peachtree City airport, said Cooper, and some vendors have planes and helicopters and could also use the facilities at Falcon Field.

Another component of the outlook for the studio and its impact into the future deals with staffing for the various vendors that will populate the studio operation. That component deals with the education and training for the large variety of jobs that will be needed in all phases of production.

While no names have been officially released, Cooper said some of the schools and universities that have inquired about populating the educational campus across the street from the studio at the former Rivers Elementary School include Clayton State University, Savannah College of Art and Design, Southern Crescent Technical College, Georgia Tech and Emory. Cooper said the educational component may begin operations by mid-2014.

Cooper also noted recent conversations about establishing a magnet high school in the area that would feed students into the educational component.

A part of the Sept. 18 presentation dealt with the amount of land acquired around the 288-acre studio property. That acreage includes land to the north, south and east of the main studio property.

“We have 700 acres under contract. The main purpose for getting the property under contract is so we can control what goes on around us,” said Cooper, noting the land to be used for the educational component and another parcel across Veterans Parkway from the studio property that will become the residential component.

The coming movie and television productions will begin to bring new people to the area who have worked in Hollywood and other areas where film productions have been made for so many years. With some sporting things like multiple tattoos, they may look different from what many local people are accustomed to.

But make no mistake, said Cooper, they are highly-skilled tradesmen bringing home six-figure salaries. While some may only be in Fayette County for a few months, at least initially, they will frequent our restaurants and stores and are looking to find a little bit of home away from home, said Cooper, adding his belief that our brand of Southern hospitality should easily help them feel at home in a new surrounding.

Addressing the overall goal of Pinewood Atlanta Studios, Cooper said it is a three-tiered approach.

“It’s a three-tiered system for the operation. One is the facility and operations, one is the vendors and the other is the community,” Cooper said. “If we can hit on all three, we can bring people to this county to work and live.”

Addressing the studio’s overall impact to Fayetteville and Fayette County, Cooper said there is no limit to what can be accomplished.

“The idea is to achieve one of the premier facilities in the world,” said Cooper. “I want us to be the best in the world and to keep the tent poles coming in.”

moelarrycurly's picture
Joined: 10/17/2010
Pinewood berms

today were coming along. I had my window rolled down as it was a little cooler out, and got a whiff of the topsoil layer they have just smoothed out on top of some of these berms. Man, talk about organic!

Whatever living things they plan to plant there will be happy, happy, happy.

City folks should be required to smell that odor at least once in their life.

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