For Immediate Release
Hollywood sees massive global expansion of world film production
Worldwide competition heats up as the stakes get larger
Southern Calif. - Gary L. Bastien, AIA, a Hollywood studio architect who is doing an increasing amount of work for clients out of the country, says that there is massive global expansion taking place in world film and television production. He ought to know--he's designed over 90% of the new studios in the LA area to meet the needs of the last expansion, and his planning expertise is being sought abroad now by everyone from visionary developers to heads of international governments.
"We were designing for the last sound stage shortage when others were still saying it didn't exist" Bastien says. All of Bastien's sound stages have been booked solid since their debut with TV shows like Fox's "Ally McBeal" and "The Practice." Soaps, feature films and other productions also use Bastien's facilities. "We know this market well, because people come to us in the early stages of their studio planning. We're seeing the same indicators of a shortage in the international market that we were seeing locally several years ago."
That's not to say that the local studio market has subsided at all. In fact, California studio work has continued to grow, which is good news for Hollywood. In fact, currently making news is the just-announced plans for a studio campus in El Segundo, Calif., called El Segundo Multi-Media Center. Bastien is currently designing the $250 million mixed-use campus, which includes a movie and television studio, low-rise office complex, high-rise offices, a 500-room hotel, and retail space.
Other recent California projects include Manhattan Beach Studios (Phase I and II), which was the first new studio in the Los Angeles area in 60 years, and Los Angeles Center Studios, which was the first studio campus in the downtown area of Los Angeles. Bastien is currently working on a large second-phase expansion for Los Angeles Center Studios. All of his studios are currently booked solid with a long reservation list to get in--yet there were doubters that said they would sit empty. These successful projects shattered age-old perceptions that no one would rent stages west of the San Fernando Valley, and that no production company would sign multi-year lease contracts for stages prior to construction.
"The Los Angeles market continues to amaze us" says Bastien, "but we've seen our most significant growth coming from abroad." The firm is currently involved in major sound stage and broadcast studio work in Spain, Vancouver, Nova Scotia, Malaysia, Ireland, and even India. Other studios the firm is involved with outside of LA include projects in New York, North Carolina, Florida, Texas, and Nevada.
The growth seems to be the result of various film and television markets realizing that there is an unprecedented opportunity to become part of the world film production marketplace--driven by a growing need for content in the television, feature film, cable, video, and now broadband Internet media. The increasing demand for content is apparent in the recent frenzy of mergers, acquisitions, and partnerships between companies vying for position in the online and traditional content marketplace.
Film schools like Chapman Unversity School of Film and Television have bolstered their programs to support the industry growth, and new film schools are being planned internationally.
Increased competition on a global level has seemed to spur growth, not hinder it. Variety reports that Ontario, which is Canada's largest production center, is losing ground to other production centers in Canada as well as abroad. However, the study shows that even though "the province's share of the national production pie shrunk from 45% to 38%," the money spent on production actually increased in Ontario last year.
This indicates an overall expansion of the production market, and illustrates the tremendous growth yet to be realized in the industry. According to the study, one of Ontario's biggest handicaps is a lack of well-designed studio space. According to experts, lack of studio space is primarily what keeps Ontario (and other markets wanting to compete in the new globalized production economy) from bidding on large-budget features and TV series.
Luis Berlanga, Spain's most accomplished director, ranked among the top ten in the world, is one of many taking proactive steps to participate in the world film market. A design proposal for Ciudad de la Luz (City of Lights), a visionary $540 million mixed-use media production center in Alicante, Spain, was recently presented to the Spanish government and media. Architects Gary Bastien and Richard Orne collaborated on the design with project management coordination by Debra Merrill at Jones Lang LaSalle. With the world class studio as the core of the design, the project is programmed specifically to cater to the full-service needs of big-budget productions and support services. Experts agree that studio facilities need a long laundry list of campus amenities in order to attract the best productions.
Bastien says that one huge advantage of Alicante is that their weather allows an average of 345 shooting days per year, an important statistic for production companies that look to minimize down-time due to inclimate weather. The location on the Mediterranean also provides beautiful scenery for incredible backlot and location shooting opportunities. "To fulfill the needs of the Spanish and European film community, Ciudad de la Luz will combine production studios, a performing arts center, film archive facilities, and a film school together for the first time to create a true media center" says Bastien, who sits on the advisory board of Chapman University's School of Film and Television. Chapman also has plans for merging educational and commercial facilities onto the same campus.
A major corporation in the world film industry is planning a fast-tracked $30 million studio project in Malaysia to become a leader in the Asian film and high-tech economy there. The facilities, designed by Bastien, include sound state-of-the-art sound stages, production support facilities, offices, a broadcast center, and amenities to attract both movies and television productions. The feature stage will be the largest new stage in the world at 50,000 s.f. and 60 ft. clear height. The project fits with the "Vision 2020" plan of Malaysia's government to become an entertainment and high-tech "information corridor" by the year 2020.
Bastien is currently designing the $20 million Brentwood Film Studio for Vancouver, Canada. Production cost savings in Vancouver are substantial. It's been said that for every three movies filmed there, a producer gets the fourth one free due to tax incentives and currency valuations. Along with "production flight" from Hollywood to Canada, however, comes an increasing demand for more state-of-the-art sound stages and production support services (like lighting, grip, and prop rentals) to handle the sustained growth of the film industry there. Existing stages (usually old converted warehouses) in the area are booked to full capacity, with more productions scheduled to go to Vancouver each year. The project is seen by experts as a critical move to increase the region's competitive edge in the world film production marketplace. By offering better facilities and support services, Vancouver stands to attract an even greater market share of productions, according to Mario Battista, General Manager of Brentood. Bastien says that Vancouver should not be seen as a threat to Hollywood. He maintains that the global marketplace is just another venue to do business. "Instead of looking at the numbers and saying 'Hollywood's piece of the pie is getting smaller,' you have to look at the broader picture and realize that the pie is just getting bigger."