A tour of BlueStar Studios, latest new TV/film campus in Georgia

It’s on space that used to be Fort Gillem
BlueStar Studios convinced Clayton County to place the name on a nearby dormant water tower. RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com

Credit: RODNEY HO

Credit: RODNEY HO

BlueStar Studios convinced Clayton County to place the name on a nearby dormant water tower. RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com

During a year when most TV and film studios were shut down for months due to the combo writers and actors strikes, several new ones came on board in a case of imperfect timing.

The latest one to open its doors is BlueStar Studios. It sits on 53 acres of the former Fort Gillem army depot, which closed more than 15 years ago.

Currently, the studio has two stages, at 20,000 square feet each, ready to fill. Mark Parkman, chief operating officer who previously worked as general manager of the Olympic Channel, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on a recent tour that he has received several inquiries since the actors strike ended but has not yet signed any deals.

“We could take a small to medium feature film or a big episodic,” using the lingo for a TV show, he said. “We could also split the campus in two and have two independent films or episodics going on at once.”

Mark Parkman, chief operating officer and co-managing partner for BlueStar Studios in Forest Park, at one of the new soundstages that just opened. RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com

Credit: RODNEY HO

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Credit: RODNEY HO

More stages are planned down the road with an eventual 14 in total once the entire studio is completed.

BlueStar is the fourth new studio to open in the state this year. The other three are Athena Studios in Athens, Electric Owl Studios near the Indian Creek MARTA station in Atlanta and Assembly Studios on the former General Motors plant site in Doraville. Lionsgate Studios in Douglasville is set to open early next year as well.

Metro Atlanta now has more than 80 purpose-driven soundstages and dozens more repurposed ones. The state, thanks to the generous tax credit passed by the legislature in 2008, now has more soundstage square footage for film and TV than New York and given the rate of expansion, could exceed Los Angeles in a couple of years.

Atlanta-based Gala Media Capital, a division of private equity firm Peachtree Group, originated the financing for construction of phase one of the studio and BlueStar last year said about $180 million was being invested into the project. Most of the money emanated from Georgia, Parkman said.

The chief executive officer of BlueStar is Rich Goldberg, who spent time in Atlanta at Turner Broadcasting in the 1990s, then helped launch DirecTV in Los Angeles. In 2015, he joined a virtual reality startup company Jaunt, whose assets were sold to Verizon in 2019.

Fort Gillem, once a major Army supply depot and administration satellite base for three major Army bases, served for seven decades as a key economic engine for Clayton County.

But the army post largely closed in 2011 as part of the Pentagon’s 2005 restructuring process. The mothballing of the post hit the county hard. Forest Park purchased 1,170 acres of the base in 2012 for $30 million. The bulk of the post has been turned into a corporate logistics hub with high-profile distribution centers by Kroger, Amazon, Kuehne+Nagel, and other companies.

Parkman said the logistics companies were reluctant to take up this property because six existing historical Army buildings used for uses such as milling and warehousing could not be torn down. BlueStar have renovated most of them. Some will be used for offices or storage or construction space.

“We wanted to capture the feel of the original buildings with the high ceilings,” he said. “We’ve tried our best to blend the new and the old.”

BlueStar Studios includes existing buildings from the time it was the Army post Fort Gillem including this automotive garage. RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com

Credit: RODENY HO

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Credit: RODENY HO

The main headquarters building for Fort Gillem has not been fixed up yet and remains empty. And there is an area of pine trees that used to be a golf course which remains undeveloped.

BlueStar Studios is on the former Fort Gillem army post, which closed in 2011. The main headquarters for Fort Gillem remains empty. RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com

Credit: RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com

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Credit: RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com

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