By D.C. Denison
June 20, 2009
They are unlikely costars, just 33 miles apart on Massachusetts’ South Shore: two ambitious plans for film studios. Plymouth Rock Studios wants to build a production complex in South Plymouth; the International Studio Group is proposing a studio on the former naval air base in South Weymouth.
The two projects could be rivals, competing for film projects that both are predicting will come to the Bay State. But after Thursday’s announcement that the South Weymouth studio plans to break ground in November, giving it an early lead in the race toward completion, developers for both projects and the town officials who have been working with them are still saying there will be plenty of business for both.
Susan Kay, mayor of Weymouth, said she’s not keeping score on which town is ahead. “I don’t see us as being in competition. It’s such a new industry, there’s plenty of room for both of us,’’ she said.
Melissa Arrighi, acting town manager of Plymouth, said she’s hoping that both projects get developed. “I’m interested in anything that will stimulate this economy,’’ she said. “I don’t have the expertise to know if there’s room for both, but I think whoever secures a site and gets up and running first has an advantage, and we’re aggressively moving forward to make the Plymouth Rock Studios plan a reality.’’
Lee Hartmann, Plymouth’s director of planning and development, said, “I’m not really looking at what’s going on in Weymouth. As a town, we’re committed to making sure our project works.’’
This week’s bullish announcement concerning the South Weymouth project came shortly after the state refused, earlier this month, to provide $50 million in bonds for infrastructure work at the Plymouth project. The Massachusetts
Executive Office of Administration and Finance said state economic specialists determined that the net revenue from Plymouth Rock Studios wouldn’t be enough to cover annual payments on the $50 million bond. “That was only a minor setback,’’ Arrighi said. “There are other avenues for funding, and we’re pursuing those aggressively.’’
“We were disappointed on the government funding, but we are still hopeful that we can find ways to work with the Commonwealth to look for subsidies and offsets on our infrastructure costs,’’ said David Kirkpatrick, cofounder of Plymouth Rock Studios.
He said the two projects in close proximity could create a critical mass that would help both. “There are a lot of good Italian restaurants in the North End, and together they make a great dining destination,’’ he added. “We’re still hopeful that together we can create an ecosystem. . . . We’re staying positive moving forward.’’
The South Weymouth facility will be a $147 million motion-picture complex on 30 acres at the former South Weymouth Naval Air Station. The 600,000-square-foot facility for movies, television shows, video games, and other programs, will be part of SouthField, a proposed minicity on the shuttered air base.
The Weymouth project is also waiting for approval by state legislators of a 20 percent tax credit on construction costs.
Plymouth Rock Studios would be a $282 million project with 14 soundstages initially, with plans to expand to as many as 28 stages. Two back lots and a pair of production buildings are also part of the plans. A performing arts school, vocational classrooms, cultural and visitors centers, and a screening theater are also on the drawing board.
D.C. Denison can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org