November 28, 2008
PLYMOUTH, Mass. — In this place known as America’s hometown, schoolchildren and tourists flock to see Plymouth Rock, a replica of the Mayflower and the place where the Pilgrims and Mashpee Wampanoags Indians shared the first Thanksgiving meal. But the staid and historic image of sometimes Plymouth could soon be tempered by a decidedly modern attraction: a $488 million film and television studio with 14 sound stages, a 10-acre back lot, a theater, a 300-room upscale hotel, a spa and 500,000 square feet of office space. The thought of turning Plymouth into a movie mecca has won the enthusiastic support of many residents, but some don’t like the idea of adding Hollywood to their history.
“We don’t need you; we’ve already got Plymouth Rock,” said Laurien Enos, one of just three of 116 Town Meeting members who voted last month against allowing the developers to build the studio on a golf course here, about 40 miles south of Boston. While Miss Enos and others worry about traffic and Hollywood glamour changing their town, most residents have embraced the studio. More than 1,100 people showed up at a recent jobs fair hosted by the project’s developers.
“I think it’s a great idea,” said Renee Stoddard, a waitress at the All-American Diner. “It’s going to bring lots of jobs and more people into Plymouth, and more business for us. It couldn’t be a better time for that. We get plumbers and carpenters in here all the time and they’re saying there’s no work.”
Even though construction isn’t expected to begin until at least April once the final approvals are set – and the studio won’t be ready before late 2010 or early 2011 – developers Plymouth Rock Studios LLC have pre-leased about 60 percent of the office space they’ll need.
Led by David Kirkpatrick, a former president of Paramount Pictures, with Earl Lestz, another former Paramount executive, Plymouth Rock Studios doesn’t have financing. That could prove a major obstacle given the current economy.
But Joseph DiLorenzo, chief financial officer of Plymouth Rock Studios and former chief financial officer of the NBA’s Boston Celtics, is confident lenders will come through. He notes that the film industry, though faltering now, has weathered recessions before and that the project offers sound stages where filmmakers can do everything related to production, including editing and scoring. “Now that we know we can build on it, we’ll go raise money,” said Mr. DiLorenzo. “We’ve had letters from HBO, Warner, Paramount and Fox, saying, ‘If you build it, we will come.'”
Big-name producers and directors will come to Massachusetts because it offers filmmakers a sales tax exemption and a 25 percent tax credit for payroll and production expenses, Mr. DiLorenzo said. In addition to a zoning change, Plymouth’s Town Meeting gave the developers a 75 percent break on the studio’s real estate taxes for the first five years. The exemption will decrease gradually over 20 years.
“We want to become the alternative to Hollywood for the film industry,” said Mr. DiLorenzo.