Leading Australian actor Russell Crowe has announced concrete plans to fulfil his long-held dream of operating a movie studio in northern New South Wales, close to where he has lived for the past 25 years.
Crowe unveiled details of a new facility at Coffs Harbour and told Variety: ”I want the East Coast of Australia to be synonymous with the film industry, globally.” He estimates that the complex could open in three to five years.
The region, which includes picturesque Byron Bay, has been getting a lot of Hollywood attention lately as Australia continues to be a COVID-safe production magnet. It has recently hosted the Amazon Prime and Hulu drama series “Nine Perfect Strangers,” starring Nicole Kidman and Melissa McCarthy, the Netflix comedy “Gods Favorite Idiot,” and the controversial Netflix reality series, “Byron Baes.”
The area boasts pristine coastal and hinterland locations, but it has lacked major studio and post production facilities.
The proposed Pacific Bay Resort Studios and Village aims to change that by building four sound stages, a water tank, animation and post-production facilities. The package would create skills, jobs and educational opportunities.
The development is a partnership between Crowe, as the major investor, and Peter Montgomery, owner-operator of the 100-acre Pacific Bay Resort, a former banana plantation that is now a hotel and leisure complex.
“We don’t plan to compete with Disney or Warner Bros. We are looking at making this a bespoke production facility to ensure the small to medium films, and the $10 to $100 million projects, will have a space in the film infrastructure framework of Australia going forward,” said Crowe.
A regional studio in Coffs Harbour could supplement soundstages in Queensland (Gold Coast and Brisbane) and New South Wales. Fox Studios in Sydney has been fully booked for more than a year by the Marvel movies “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” and “Thor: Love and Thunder.” Gold Coast Studios, where Ron Howard’s “Thirteen Lives” is currently shooting, is also heavily booked.
With 100 hotel rooms and leisure facilities, the Pacific Bay studio would enable cast and crew to stay onsite. “It’s not a new idea. If you go back to old Hollywood studios and bungalows – they also offered accommodation to suit the precarious hours of shooting,” says Crowe.
Crowe says he will keep a “close design eye” on all aspects of the facility, which also includes tourism functions.
“All the boxes are ticked in terms of what we need to complete the facility, now we just need to keep the momentum going,” said Crowe.