The story involves glitz, intrigue, and indictments. No, it’s not a soap opera plot. It’s the amazingly true story behind the still-proposed Plymouth Rock Studios in Massachusetts…
By Kerry O’Donnell
New England Film
July 6, 2010
The story of the proposed Plymouth Rock Studio is almost a screenplay-in-the-making in itself. It includes glamour, glitz, intrigue, deal making, lawsuits, money and criminal indictments. The project, which was announced four years ago with champagne popping-like fanfare, promised to be the Massachusetts film industry’s answer to Hollywood. But then, every few months, a new twist or turn to the story would materialize that would push the groundbreaking date further into the future. On June 1st, in anti-climatic fashion, the artistic side and the development side of the company announced a parting of the ways in their once-joint venture.
Plymouth Rock Studios Holding LLC (PRSH) and Rock Entertainment LLC (REN) have now announced that they are now two separate entities. PRSH have relocated their head of operations at the Waverly Golf Course in Plymouth, MA. This location is the proposed site of the Plymouth Rock Studio and PRSH will be focusing on obtaining project funding, pre-leasing and closing on the actual purchase of the golf course. William Wynne will continue as CEO and Joseph DiLorenzo will continue as COO of the company. According to the announcement, another new construction date of “later this year” will allow the studio to open in 2012.
David Kirkpatrick, the former driving force behind the studio, will now be the CEO of REN. The focus of REN will now be “motion pictures, television, social networking, education and responsible innovation.” The studio saga began in 2006, when David Kirkpatrick, a former head of Paramount Motion Pictures, announced plans to build a $500 million studio, with 14 sound stages, office building, post-production facilities, a hotel, restaurants, theater, visitors center and retail space. It was described as a tourist mecca that would create an estimated 3,160 local jobs, according to its developers. State officials, excited by the idea, initially offered up $100 million in tax benefits and other benefits to Kirkpatrick’s group. The group, of which he was one of the six cofounders, called itself Good News Holdings.
At the time of Kirkpatrick’s announcements, Massachusetts businessman Mark Panagiotes was also involved in the studio plan, initially called “Bay State Studios.” A schism fractured the alliance and Panagiotes filed a lawsuit. An undisclosed financial settlement was reached and studio plans proceeded.
It appears, however, that when Kirkpatrick found another studio investor, another schism occurred between him and Good News Holdings. Kirkpatrick was approached by George Thomas Bobbitt, who offered to invest $200 million into the studio project. But the money that Bobbitt offered up never appeared. What did appear was the disclosure that he was a convicted embezzler who had served time in prison. This chapter in the saga produced another legal fight, between Kirkpatrick and Good News Holding.
Kirkpatrick pushed on with his studio dream. The project, now known as Plymouth Rock Studios, attracted a new partner, Joseph DiLorenzo, a former Boston Celtic executive. A new push for funding was on. In October 2008, the Town of Plymouth overwhelmingly approved the studio project and all the projected benefits presented by the developers. Voters were told groundbreaking would begin in late 2009, with completion at the end of 2010. But more roadblocks to the project were on the way.
In mid-2009, Massachusetts denied the project $50 million in state funding that would have helped pay for road and sewer work. And the group missed the November deadline to complete the $16.5 million purchase of Waverly Oaks. Another funding deal that would have given the group the funds to complete the purchase failed to materialize.
Two months before, Kirkpatrick had announced $500 million funding from Prosperity International of Orlando, FL, headed by Michael Burgess. Burgess promised to secure the loan for the group, and Plymouth Rock Studios gave him $3.5 million as a collateral deposit. Not only did the funds never materialize, but Burgess never returned the group’s deposit. Burgess is currently being held in custody by the US Attorney’s office in Florida after being indicted on 42 counts of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
It now appears, with this latest announcement, that Plymouth Rock Studios will no longer have David Kirkpatrick at the helm. Instead, when his company, REN, is ready to set up an office, he could be one of its tenants. For now, according to a blog he wrote on his company’s website/networking site, www.hollywoodeasttv.com, Rock Entertainment would “maintain its Judeo Christian philosophy in implementing its mission.”
For more information, visit http://plymouthrockstudios.com.