Victoria OKs studio

Consortium to build Melbourne facility

SYDNEY — The desperately needed film studio pegged to begin construction in Melbourne several months ago has finally been greenlit by the Victoria State government.

State Premier Steve Bracks on Tuesday confirmed that consortium Central City Studios Holdings would have five soundstages at the inner-city Docklands precinct, operational by early 2004 at a cost of A$50 million ($27 million). The government will meet 80% of costs, with CCSH making up the shortfall.

CCSH managing director Tim Barnett has pledged to build a sixth stage and office cluster for $33 million (backed by Westpac Bank) once the first phase is operational.

The construction of a top-notch studio has been the local industry’s peak priority for at least five years. A government inquiry in 2000 confirmed it was integral to fostering domestic production and stemming the flow of talented crew to Sydney and Queensland, where Fox Studios and Warner Roadshow respectively have expanded to facilitate an increasing amount of runaway production.

In June 2001, Bracks announced in Hollywood a public bidding process and pledged $22 million. CCSH was the winning bidder (of three) last January — due to sign off at the end March.

Watertight contracts

The government said the delay allowed it to ensure all the contracts were watertight.

CCSH promised the film industry there would be no more delays.

Despite holding grave concerns about the process, campaigners of the Victorian Industry Working Party have refused to publicly criticize the process or the government, fearing they’d lose the studio all together.

International marketing agency Ausfilm registered a 30% increase in inquiries about lensing Down Under since the government last year introduced a 12.5% tax offset for offshore films. Victoria’s government has its eye on attracting a bigger slice of that $156 million pie.

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