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USING BRAIN POWER

Arizona studios hope to catch H'w'd overflow

Nearly a year after ankling his exec VP post at Phoenix-based Fox Animation Studios, Steve Brain is developing Arizona Studios, a 36-acre, $42 million soundstage facility in the Phoenix area.

As president and CEO of Arizona Studios, Brain has raised capital for the project from a private group of Los Angeles-based investors, though he declined to name anyone involved.

The exec said he expects to break ground in March, immediately after closing escrow on the property, and hopes to open the studio in January ’98.

The studio will be in Tempe, approximately 10 minutes from the Phoenix airport.

Although Hollywood is experiencing a shortage of soundstages available for film production and Arizona has long been an attractive locale for location lensing, there is no place for productions to film indoors if they want to take advantage of the state’s lower cost of doing business.

“We will get overflow from L.A.,” Brain said. “We already attract a lot for productions and we can attract more if we have soundstages. I’ve already had to turn down projects because we aren’t built yet.”

Plenty of space

According to him, Arizona Studios will consist of seven soundstages totaling 110,000 square feet (three measuring 10,000 square feet each, and four 20,000-square-foot units), a 100,000-square-foot office building and 80,000 square feet of backlot support space.

Each soundstage will be built using concrete tilt-wall construction, providing 35-foot-high clear-span space. In addition to 1,500 KVA of power per soundstage, each stage will have approximately 120 tons of air conditioning, and dock-level and ground-level loading access. The complex will be large enough to add as many as four more soundstages if needed. The campuslike site will feature courtyards, grassy knolls and a jogging track around the perimeter.

The facility would employ approximately 20 to 24 full-time workers, including a general manager to oversee the complex.

Brain left Fox a year ago, and said he has been active raising the capital, designing the facility, selecting the site and rounding up tenants and clients since January. Before joining Fox, he worked at Silver Pictures, and previously was involved in the development of North Shore Studios near Vancouver, the largest TV and film studio in Canada.

State study

Earlier this year, Arizona spent $52,000 for a feasibility study that recommended the state build a soundstage complex to aid productions seeking to take advantage of the state’s lower business costs, right-to-work labor pool and proximity to L.A.

The report did caution, however, that the presence of a soundstage alone did not guarantee bringing production to the area.

Brain said Arizona Studios will not compete directly with established Hollywood studios. Rather, the facility will be vying for those productions that have decided to shoot out of state, which would normally go to North Carolina, Florida or Vancouver.

Offices, parking

Once completed, Arizona Studios will be the first full-functioning studio in the Phoenix area, and the largest film production facility in Arizona. Adjacent to each soundstage will be a bungalow with fully equipped offices.

“We’re not trying to re-invent the wheel,” Brain said. “It will be fairly standard, but with plenty of air and power. One thing different is that there is always a lack of parking for trucks and trailers at these facilities. Here, there will be more than enough parking for up to eight or nine trucks at the stages.”

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