New incentives help studio growth

Pennsylvania’s new tax incentives have opened the door to expanding studio growth.

Under legislation signed by Gov. Edward G. Rendell, a production intended for a national audience that spends 60% of its budget in Pennsylvania draws a 25% transferable tax credit on qualified expenses. While the state’s budget for the program is capped at $75 million for this year (up from a previous $10 million), there is no per-project cap.

As part of the push to draw production to the state, Rendell, along with Pacifica Ventures chairman-chief financial officer Hal Katersky, recently announced the proposed construction of a Hollywood-style studio in the Delaware Valley. Pacifica, with partners Commonwealth Realty Advisers of Chicago and Amalgamated Bank of Washington, constructed New Mexico’s Albuquerque Studio.

“We have been working with Pacifica Ventures for two years because we know that a major studio facility will attract feature films and television series and create thousands of new jobs for our region,” said Sharon Pinkenson, executive director of the Greater Philadelphia Film Office. “We are inviting all experienced crew with an interest in returning to Philadelphia for work to give us a call.”

The tax incentives, which Katersky and partners believe will lure productions to the state, fueled their motivation for investing in Pennsylvania’s film infrastructure. Pacifica expects to invest some $75 million in the first phase of the project, which will include six 24,000-square-foot, high-ceilinged soundstages. Groundbreaking for the facility, which will be similar to the Albuquerque Studios, is expected to begin this fall.

“We go where the filmmakers want to go,” Katersky said. “It wouldn’t make sense otherwise.”

M. Night Shyamalan continues to use Philly as the base for his film production work and recently began principal photography on “The Happening” for 20th Century Fox.

“Philadelphia has a long history of production experience, four seasons, a vast array of historic and modern locations, universities, a big city, small towns and rural landscapes all within the zone,” boasted Pinkenson, who also spoke of Philadelphia’s hotels to accommodate crews and stars and some of the best restaurants, cultural institutions and creature comforts in the U.S.

Adding to the boom in studio construction, plans for the Logan Square Studios Complex, a 280,000 square-foot production facility were recently announced by Jeffrey D. Erb of Feverpitch Pictures, producer Kelly Wolfington and Develcom, a regional real estate development company.

“This is a major breakthrough for Pennsylvania and for the East Coast film industry,” said Erb.

The complex, skedded to break ground in Norristown in October, will have eight soundstages ranging from 2,000 square feet to 30,000 square feet; column-free, 40-foot clear height under grid; and complete post-production facilities. It will be built to accommodate film, high-def TV and digital camera productions.

Also planned are 180,000 square feet of support space to include production offices, green room, dressing and screening rooms, water tank, catering services, lighting and grip equipment, mill shop, Internet broadcasting facilities and a vocational school to be used by local universities to train film/TV and media students.

Benderspink’s JC Spink said he looks forward to making use of the Logan Square Studios. “While a lot of production is brought to Pennsylvania due to its wonderful locations, there is an extreme lack of production space,” he added. “With the new tax incentives in Pennsylvania, and the availability of a major soundstage and production facilities, I believe that Logan Square will be a focal point of East Coast creative production.”

Logan Studios will have its production and support spaces attached to the soundstages to accommodate the changing weather patterns of the East Coast. A hotel and restaurants are also planned for the 25-acre site.

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