Friday, December 01, 2006

Studio nixed

From the CA story by David Williams and John Beifuss:

Village Roadshow Pictures, a film company behind the Matrix trilogy and other hits, won't be opening a regional headquarters in Memphis.

The company's request for $5 million in city-county incentives, plus increased state incentives above those already flowing from 2006 film legislation, doomed a deal that had been in negotiations for months. It had been touted since the summer as a potential entertainment and economic coup, creating a stream of made-in-Memphis films and some $250 million in production spending over five years.

"It was an innovative concept if the terms had been realistic and workable, but they weren't," said Linn Sitler, Memphis and Shelby County Film & Television commissioner.

The company's proposed terms were rejected Wednesday in a letter to Greg Basser, CEO of Village Roadshow Entertainment Group USA, from Sitler and Tennessee Film, Entertainment and Music Commission executive director David Bennett.

Bennett said the Memphis initiative was never a priority for Village Roadshow. Asked if the company was seriously thinking of opening production facilities in Memphis, he said: "I don't think so. I think there was a possibility that it could have occurred if they had gotten everything they had asked for ...

"We don't throw money out in advance to bait companies to come here, and that's basically what they were asking for. It's typical of an economic development deal that the company coming in asks for the moon and sees if they can get it."

Wednesday's letter noted that Village Roadshow was seeking incentives that "would rank among the most generous granted by any state in this country."

In the letter and in a phone interview, Sitler expressed the hope that Memphis and Village Roadshow could "partner successfully at a later date," perhaps resulting in the company shooting a movie here.

But it appears there was no chance of local and state government accepting Village Roadshow's terms for the regional headquarters: "It's asking for too much," Sitler said.

In addition to seeking city-county funding and increased state incentives, Village Roadshow apparently halved the amount of money it would spend in-state to $125 million over five years.

Also, according to Village Roadshow's proposed terms, the company wouldn't guarantee in-state spending. Instead, it used such phrases as "with a goal of" and "every effort will be used."

But Rey Flemings, who led the Village Roadshow recruitment when he was president of the nonprofit Memphis Music Foundation, disagreed with Bennett.

"Village Roadshow's interest in getting this done was sincere," Flemings said. "They're a global company. Whenever they look at doing significant blocks of production, they have to weigh all of the financial incentives."

Flemings left the foundation in September to join Justin Timberlake's organization as the homegrown pop star seeks to relaunch Stax Records.

The Stax relaunch -- which has yet to be officially announced -- would be a partnership with California-based Concord Music Group, whose owners -- Norman Lear and Hal Gaba -- own part of Village Roadshow.

1 comment:

McCoy said...

What a bloody fiasco.

So, $5 million in economic incentives are "unrealistic." And yet the city would defraud both city and state taxpayers for $6 million to hand over to a shitty basketball team, because building them a brand-new ugly-assed arena and allowing them to decide what other events can and can't be held Downtown wasn't enough. As a rule, I'm against giving public money to private entities, but hey, what's good for the shitty basketball players is good for the "Matrix" hacks, right? I guess Flemming just wasn't a big enough crook to pull it off. Maybe he should have tried harder to find the right people to bribe. The only good news is that now Flemming is wasting Timberlake's time and money instead of the taxpayer's.

Oh, and the fucking Grizzlies owe the city of Memphis $6 million in free parking. Plus interest!