If all goes well, Savannah, Georgia, could soon be the location of a new film-production studio that would generate movie- and television-related income for the coastal city.
Georgia has served as an “alternative Hollywood” for years now, thanks to the state’s concerted efforts to attract the production industry via tax incentives, industry-friendly policy, and a string of blockbusters including the Marvel “Avengers” film series. Much of the economic benefit to the state (more than $2 billion in 2019 alone), has gone to its capital, Atlanta, and surrounding metro and suburban areas. In fact, as far back as 2016, MovieMaker Magazine ranked Atlanta first in the nation among top cities for moviemakers.
The new production studio could bring established companies with a presence already in the state farther east, to Savannah, while it may also attract new producers who find the location appealing. If technology is going to play a role in a production (and, these days, doesn’t it always?), then the Savannah studio will be particularly well-suited for producers because its location will on the former site of Georgia Tech’s professional development program in the area.
The project, should it move forward, will be the result of a partnership between the Georgia Film Academy and the University System of Georgia. Sandra Neuse, the University System’s vice chancellor for real estate and facilities, noted that many producers already shoot in the Savannah area. According to a 2019 report by the Savannah Regional Film Commission, 129 professional projects (including eight feature films), 18 television projects, and a dozen commercials filmed in the Savannah area that year. This generated, Neuse said, a $266.3 million economic impact for the entire region.
Given that all of this happened when Savannah lacks “sufficient, scalable, purpose-built sound stages and production facilities,” proponents of the project say the potential for positive, economic impact in the area is likely boundless. Even better, thanks to a highly affordable cost-of-living in Georgia and the southeast, producers enduring extended, COVID-related production uncertainty are likely to find the environment in Georgia, which is largely open economically and much more affordable than the West Coast, to be an ideal one.
“Perhaps one of the biggest advantages of creating a film production studio here is it would increase opportunities to generate far more income for the Savannah area by making this part of the state a one-stop shop for film production companies,” observed local reporter Sean Evans.
The project’s passage through the Board of Regents hinges on Georgia Tech’s ability to garner approval to move its professional education programs to a “more central Savannah location,” the Board’s own willingness to approve the massive redevelopment, and successful location of a developer.