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Fox Studio Site In Oz Up In The Air

Twentieth Century Fox hasn’t decided on a home yet for its planned $20 million film studio in Australia, despite Fox chairman Rupert Murdoch’s original intention to convert the Sydney Showground.

Plans for the facility, which would house Fox films and programming for stablemate Star TV, were announced jointly by Murdoch and Prime Minister Paul Keating in October. They identified the Showground as the preferred site, subject to negotiations with the land’s owner, the New South Wales government, and Keating pledged unspecified government aid.

Since then, Fox execs have wrestled with several potential hitches with the Showground, chiefly that the present tenant, the Royal Agricultural Society, needs it for its annual show for two months a year until it moves to a new location in 1999 (or earlier, subject to negotiations). Also, the Showground’s pavilions are heritage-listed, which restricts rebuilding, and there’s some concern that the available area may not be large enough.

The NSW government has asked for expressions of interest for the site to be lodged by Feb. 3. The government’s evaluation committee is scheduled to make its recommendation by Feb. 28.

“We have not made a decision one way or the other on the Showground site,” said Fox’s chief financial officer, Simon Bax, who is shepherding the project.

“The Showground has some great advantages and some major disadvantages. We’re looking at whether a studio would be feasible there. If it won’t work, we’ll consider other locations,” said Bax.

The exec has been approached by other states (most notably Victoria, which is keen to have a major facility and the $100 million or so worth of annual production that Fox is planning) but said his primary focus is New South Wales.

Coincidentally, the Fox movie “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers” is shooting at the Showground. That production appears to have gone overtime and over-budget amid reports that all has not gone according to plan.

However, production manager David Coatsworth insists, “We have added some sequences to make it a bigger and better film. The studio is fully behind the project.”

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