Media: Shreveport film studio nears completion

By Adam Kealoha Causey for Shreveporttimes.com

Applying the finishing touches to Shreveport’s Nu Image/Millennium Films studio, industry advocates say, should be the start to another bright year for area TV and movie production.

Workers are bricking the 53,000-square-foot building in the city’s Ledbetter Heights neighborhood. Diego Martinez, head of Millennium’s local operations, said the soundstages and office space should be online in late January with a February grand opening. By then, Millennium will have vacated space on Shreveport’s Knight Street that it has occupied for about three years.

“I’m absolutely ecstatic that this will be open soon and that we’ll be servicing the film industry,” Martinez said. “I hope this is just the beginning for much more to come around here.”

Construction on the $10 million project started in December 2009 — after ground-breaking festivities in April 2008 — allowing the company to take advantage of state film tax credits. The Worldwide FX studio, the smaller and western-most building on the 6.7-acre plot, already is open. About 70 graphic designers and other special effects artists are at work there.

Shreveport leaders lured Nu Image/Millennium by committing more than $2 million in land acquisition, site preparation, drainage work and improved sewer lines.

Anticipation of the studio’s opening already has brought improvements to at least one nearby building. T.J. Mandina, owner of the old Silver Dollar Grocery building at 830 Fannin St., has converted the site to restaurant space. It received heavy damage during a fall 2009 tornado.

Rather than reopen the deli and convenience store he ran for more than 40 years, Mandina said he wanted a new start that would appeal to the film industry.

“With Millennium going in across the street, I feel like this should be the beginning of something to really start expanding downtown,” Mandina said. He hopes to draw a tenant that serves soul food and that can host live music.

At mid-year, combined budgets for half a dozen local productions neared $100 million — the same amount spent on all projects in 2009.

Next year also looks promising, according to Shreveport film commissioner Arlena Acree. She wouldn’t divulge details, but she said she’s talking with a company that may build another soundstage here.

“They’re going to return in mid-January,” Acree said about the potential investors.

Millennium will shoot two films — “Playing the Field” and “Kane and Lynch” — locally in 2011, according to the film office. The 26-episode television series “Ghostbreakers” should start shooting in January. It stars Joey Greco, best known as host of the show “Cheaters.”

[shreveporttimes.com]

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