Although the 2007 recession wasn’t the direct cause, it certainly sped up the process of several state governments making tax incentive deals with major movie studios. Come to our state, support our local talent and we’ll give you a huge tax break. Because of the warmer climate, southern states such as Louisiana, North Carolina, Kentucky, and Florida became obvious choices but in the decade since all of this wheeling and dealing started no state has fared better than Georgia.
According to industry monitor FilmLA, 16 of the top 100 movies from 2016 were shot in Georgia, the most of any state and two countries (England and Canada). Dominating the industry since well, forever, California slipped to fourth place with 12, still far ahead of New York and Louisiana with six each.
Georgia-lensed feature films and television productions generated an economic impact of $9.5 billion during fiscal year 2017 (July 1, 2016 – June 30, 2017) and the 320 feature film and television productions that shot in Georgia spent $2.7 billion state-wide during this time. Current box office behemoth “Black Panther” alone spent $84 million locally during a full year of production. The film industry is also responsible for more than 92,000 jobs currently held in Georgia.
Given that every studio making substantial inroads with the entertainment industry offers about the same deal (approximately 20 percent) why could it be that Georgia’s income keeps going up while all other states are going down? There are several factors that have made Georgia the new leader of the pack.
First is that it is home to the busiest airport in the world (Hartsfield-Jackson in Atlanta). That might not sound like a big deal at first but when culling together talent often from all corners of the globe, it’s easier to make the destination city a place where virtually every world airline has regular flights. Second on the list would be variety of scenery. While Florida has beaches, Kentucky has its majestic mountains and North Carolina has a bit of both, Georgia has them all beat. If you want an idea of just how versatile Georgia is just watch “Vacation” from 2015 starring Atlanta native Ed Helms.
Although the story takes place in seven states, all but the establishing opening (Chicago) and closing (San Francisco) shots and another at the “Four Corners” (Utah), were filmed in Georgia, including scenes set at the Grand Canyon and others in the middle of the desert. The climactic sequence at the infamous “Wally World” was shot at Six Flags in Marietta.
Adding to the myriad of choices of scenery, Georgia affords filmmakers and production companies the one factor that keeps them coming back to the Peach State and will likely do so for the foreseeable future. It is the “camera ready” status of every single county in the state.
Second only to Texas (254) in the number of counties in all U.S. states, Georgia (with 159) can accommodate shooting requests in any part of the largest state in the union east of the Mississippi River. From a convenience perspective this feature is incomparable. Say you need locations requiring a 200 foot mountain with a red clay face and sparse tree coverage and a seaside beach in winter that can look like summer AND a church built in the late 18th century with western exposure sunlight which must be set-up and ready to shoot tomorrow? As of right now all of that that can only be done in Georgia.
Recognizing the future, the British-based Pinewood Studios built a facility in Fayette County south of Atlanta in the early 2010s and by 2014 became the go-to studio for Disney’s ongoing Marvel productions which began with “Ant-Man.” Since then, every finished Marvel film has been shot primarily at Pinewood which boats 18 sound stages covering a staggering 1,007,446 square feet.
Also setting up shop in Atlanta in 2010 was EUE/Screen Gems Studios that signed an unprecedented 50-year lease with the city for use of the historic Lakewood Fairgrounds. It is there where interiors for the popular Netflix series “Stanger Things” is produced.
Before 2018 is over, the 100th sound stage will be completed in the Atlanta metro area which will result in the state offering close to two million square feet of interior space from which to choose. Not bad for a state that only seriously got into film and TV production in earnest a little over a decade ago.
It would be proper and courteous and distinctly southern to warmly welcome the rest of the union to join in and get their share of the entertainment production pie but it’s probably too late. Beginning with the administration of former governor Sonny Perdue (now U.S. Secretary of Agriculture) and continuing with current governor Nathan Deal, Georgia found a way stake claim to metaphorical territory once ruled exclusively by California and New York. Georgia is no longer the new kid on the block. It is the reigning champion and the center of the world’s entertainment universe.
Originally from Washington, D.C., Michael Clark has written for over 30 local and national media outlets and is currently the only newspaper-based film critic providing original content in the Atlanta Top 10 media marketplace and he recently co-founded the Atlanta Film Critics Circle. Over the last two decades, Mr. Clark has written over 3,500 movie reviews and film related articles for the Gwinnett Daily Post and is one of the scant few conservative-minded U.S. critics. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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