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Sydney studios adding space

Sunrise launches in Nov., Serenity Cove makes initial bow in Jan.

SYDNEY — Anticipating a surge in offshore and local production, two studio complexes being built in Sydney are enlarging their facilities.

The Sunrise Film Studios — Australia’s first floodable soundstage — has delayed its launch until November to provide more space for the workshop, art department and set storage than originally planned.

Serenity Cove Studios has decided to build eight soundstages, two more than envisioned initially, without affecting its opening timetable. The first four will bow in January and the rest will be completed by next July, according to CEO Kingston Anderson.

Building four small stages rather than two will enable Serenity Cove to cater for more local productions, he says. The extra construction costs will be absorbed within the $A100 million ($65 million) budget funded by developer Paul Williams.

There’s been a marked downturn in the volume of offshore production Down Under this year, not helped by the Iraq war and the SARS crisis, but biz has picked up since George Lucas started shooting the final “Star Wars” adventure at the Fox Studios in Sydney and prospects from September onwards look bright.

“I’m very optimistic that the industry will be very busy by Christmas, which is why we’re building as fast as we can,” said Anderson, adding that a U.S. film, which he declines to name, is booked next month into the Serenity lot at Kurnell, south of Sydney.

Latest additions to the Serenity site are a 747 airplane set, comprising nose, cockpit and rear, which previously was housed in the Hunter Valley, and a Challenger spacecraft, which was stored in Homebush; both were built for commercials.

Sunrise Studios, located at Lane Cove, six miles from the city center, was due to open this month. It will provide the “wet” stage (which will have a removable floor so it can be adapted for ‘dry use) as well as underwater cameras and lighting equipment from a new local branch of Hollywood-based Pete Romano’s Hydroflex Inc.

Co-founder Greg Timms said he and partner Simon Kerslake decided to increase the space after talking to several international clients. “We’re negotiating our first projects and we expect to line up work for the major portion of next year,” says Timms.