Hollywood has growing interest in Bay State

By Steve Adams
Brockton Enterprise, January 28, 2008

PLYMOUTH— A major movie studio in Plymouth could generate as many as 2,000 well-paying jobs and stimulate the tourism and service industries in the region, potentially becoming the largest private employer in the Plymouth area.

Plymouth Rock Studios is pursuing plans for a large-scale film studio and multimedia production campus at roughly 1,000 acres of land owned by the town in South Plymouth.

The group, headed by former Paramount Pictures executive David Kirkpatrick, envisions 1 million square feet of studio space, including 14 sound stages, and 405,000 square feet of building space in a village center, including shops, restaurants and studio housing.

The project would be one of the largest job-creation opportunities on the South Shore in decades.

“It is almost an entirely new economic sector for the area, which helps diversify the whole economic base,” South Shore Chamber of Commerce CEO Peter Forman said. “While it’s a brand new sector, it very nicely complements the whole tourism and entertainment economy on the South Shore, Boston and the Cape.”

Plymouth Rock Studios was recently spun off from another company named Good News Holdings of Sherman Oakes, Calif.

That company had announced plans for a multimedia production studio on the same site with an emphasis on faith-based productions, as well as space for a broader range of productions.

Kirkpatrick said the Plymouth site gives Massachusetts a chance to build an entertainment sector taking advantage of Hollywood’s burgeoning interest in the Bay State as a film location.

The project could support up to 2,000 jobs ranging from wood crafters and set designers to costume designers, camera people and digital video editors, he said.

Kirkpatrick also sees an indirect boost to the local tourism and hospitality industries, and building and equipment suppliers such as lumber yards and hardware stores.

The Shindler Perspective, an entertainment consulting company in Los Angeles, has begun an economic impact study on behalf of Plymouth Rock Studios. The husband-and-wife team of Marty and Roberta Shindler visited the Plymouth site last month.

The Shindlers will study types of jobs and projected wage scales at the studio, the potential for work training programs for studio jobs and the “multiplier effect” of businesses in the surrounding area benefiting from the studio’s presence, Roberta Shindler said.

The Massachusetts Film Office, which is responsible for helping filmmakers find suitable locations in the Bay State, sees the studio as an added attraction to ensure the Bay State movie boom continues.

As films starring Bruce Willis, Leonardo DiCaprio and Matthew McConaughey prepare to start shooting in and around Boston this spring, the office has been scrambling to find suitable studio locations for indoor scenes.

“I feel like I’m in the abandoned warehouse and hockey rink business,” said Nick Paleologos, director of the film office. “The studios that are coming in now are using any open space that’s 20,000 to 40,000 square feet with some clear space. We need (a movie studio), and we need it now.”

Hollywood’s growing interest in the Bay State has been spurred by state tax credits that first took effect in 2006 and were enhanced in 2007.

Filmmaking activity has grown from a picture or two a year to 10 in 2007. In the absence of a sound stage, filmmakers have shot scenes at hockey rinks in Medford, a former Frugal Fannie’s store in Allston and warehouses in South Boston and Chelsea.

“We’re trying to make do with what we have, and so far, so good,” Paleologos said. “We haven’t lost a picture yet because of the lack of a state-of-the-art sound stage. But if we had one, it would be terrific.”

Plymouth Rock Studios estimates the project cost at $300 million, including $280 million in construction costs. Kirkpatrick said the company has been meeting with potential financial backers. They are negotiating with an investment company on a deal involving a combination of equity in Plymouth Rock Studios and debt, he said.

Forman, the Chamber of Commerce CEO, said the Plymouth parcel has the potential to be an economic hub similar to the roles played by Quincy’s Fore River Shipyard and Plymouth’s Cordage Park factory in the early 20th century.

“It’s just a huge jolt of activity that spurs on countless other business ventures not related to the film industry,” he said.

Steve Adams can be reached at sadams@ledger.com.

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