Atlanta’s film production community, already one of the largest in the nation, is set to embark on plans that could help to reshape the metropolitan real estate market.
In March of this year, Gray Television, based in Brookhaven, announced that it was purchasing 128 acres of what had once been the General Motors Assembly plant along the northern perimeter of I-285 in Doraville.
In announcing the purchase, Gray, which is one of the largest operators of local television stations in the country, said it planned to build a media complex and residential site called Studio City.
According to Jay Gipson of the Gipson Company, the developers of the project, the company plans to build 500,000 sq. ft. of studio space across ten buildings. When it’s fully built out, over the next five years, the development is expected to also have apartments, townhomes, retailing and offices.
It was yet another indication that film production in Georgia is headed for what could be another great year. In 2020, the state’s film industry brought in a record $4 billion in direct spending. All this has made Atlanta one of the busiest film production centers in the world.
According to Lee Thomas, who heads the state’s Film Office, the production business is back to where it was before the pandemic hit in early 2020.
“It’s come back stronger than ever, and I’m surprised at the speed that it happened. We’re scrambling to find enough crews and equipment and especially stage space because of all the shows that want to come in here.”
Gray Television, an Atlanta company that is the third-largest owner of local television stations in the country, plans to build 10 sound stages on the former GM property. It also recently purchased Third Rail Studios, which opened five years ago on the former auto assembly site. Its three sound stages, totaling more than 80,000 sq. ft., have been leased to Netflix and the Disney+ streaming service.
With production industries in New York and Los Angeles still slow to recover from the health crisis, demand for production facilities is up sharply.
In South Atlanta, at Tyler Perry Studios, which helped to put Atlanta on the entertainment map 15 years ago, business is also booming.
Each day, some 5,000 visitors are said to walk through the front gate at the former site of the Fort McPherson army base. The studio sits on a location that Steven Mensch, the president and general manager of studio operations, says dwarfs the present Hollywood studios.
“You could fit Disney, Warner, Paramount, Sony, Fox, all of those studios in L.A. inside our fence and still have a lot of room. Mr. Perry’s has the only major motion picture studio on the East Coast anchored by a 330-acre physical real estate studio property.”
In June, Perry announced that he had purchased another 37 acres adjacent to his studios, which, like the GM development, would add retail, restaurants, and entertainment to the production center.
Mensch, who chaired the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival this year, credits the success of the production business, in part, to a Georgia state tax credit of up to 30% for qualifying productions. But that’s only one leg of what he calls a “three-legged stool” that the industry in Georgia rests on.
“We’ve got studio infrastructure, like our 12 purpose-built sound stages, that can be up to almost 39,000 square feet each. We’ve got a trained, established crew base under strong union leadership, and we’ve got support from government legislation. Without any one of those three, this level of work would be untenable.”
There were 366 productions last year that qualified for the tax incentives, of which 221 were television productions, 45 were independent film projects, and 21 were films by major studios.
Wrapping up production this summer were a new DC Comics blockbuster, “Black Adam,” starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and a new Bryan Cranston film, “Jerry and Marge Go Large,” which costars Annette Bening.
Long-running series like “Divorce Court” and “Family Feud,” starring Steve Harvey, also call Atlanta home.
For next year, pre-production planning has already begun on a widely anticipated new Disney film adaptation of the Broadway hit “Wicked,” which will be shot in Atlanta.
Georgia has come a long way in the dozen-or-so years since the state legislature made a strong pitch for the state to become home to the Hollywood of the South.
According to the head of Georgia’s film office, Lee Thomas, there’s more economic development in the works.
“We had 45,000 square feet of stage space back in 2010 and now we have 2.1 million square feet of purpose-built and 3.2 million square feet of retrofitted or dedicated stage space. And we have a lot more on the way. By this time next year, there will be another million square feet in the works. It’s pretty amazing.”
- Business & Professionals
- Bob Bahr
- Gray Television
- “Black Adam"
- Dwayne Johnson
- “Family Feud”
- Steve Harvey
- Atlanta Jewish Film Festival
- Georgia state tax credit
- tax incentives
- television productions
- independent film projects
- major studios
- DC Comics
- Bryan Cranston
- “Jerry and Marge Go Large"
- Annette Bening
- “Divorce Court”
- Hollywood of the South
- production studios
- residential space
- old GM plant
- Steven Mensch
- Tyler Perry Studios
- South Atlanta
- The Dream Building. Brookhaven
- Studio City
- Third Rail Studios
- Disney+ streaming service
- New York
- Los Angeles
- Fort McPherson army base
- Jay Gipson
- Gipson Company
- Lee Thomas
- Film Office