Movie studio planned in Covington

Georgia is home to several major movie production complexes, including:

EUE/Screen Gems, Atlanta

Tyler Perry Studios, Atlanta

Raliegh Studios, Senoia

Atlanta Film Studios, Hiram

Others announced this year include Fayette, Effingham and now Newton counties.

Covington and Newton County have already trademarked the nickname “Hollywood of the South,” owing to numerous TV shows and film scenes shot there.

Soon they could have a full-fledged movie studio to go with the handle.

Covington-based Triple Horse, founded by a former producer and director for Turner Studios, plans a sprawling 168-acre complex near I-20 about 35 miles east of Atlanta that one day could hold up to eight sound stages and post-production facilities.

Triple Horse’s announcement is the latest involving new or expanding movie production sites in metro Atlanta, including a planned 288-acre campus in Fayette County that would be managed by the famed London-based Pinewood Studios Group.

Georgia is one of several states trying to lure production work out of California, in part by offering generous state film tax credits.

The Covington project — estimated at $100 million in private investment when it is finished — is spearheaded by a local company but it aims to recruit big budget blockbusters, cable and network television series as well as smaller independent productions.

Triple Horse, a two decade old company with several subsidaries, got its start shooting commercials and doing visual effects and title sequences for TV shows.

The firm also plans to shoot its own film projects at the new studio.

Focusing mainly on family and values-oriented projects, the Triple Horse Studios division lists two films in post-production so far this year — “A Cry for Justice” and “Laughing at the Moon,” according to the company’s website.

Triple Horse is negotiating to acquire property along Ga. 142 and City Pond Road from Newton County’s development authority. The campus will start with a $38 million first phase that would include five sound stages, with additional sound stages, a back lot and post-production facilities to be added later.

Construction is expected to begin in a few months and completed within 12 months of breaking ground, Triple Horse said.

Film production had a $3.1 billion economic impact on Georgia in 2012, according to the Georgia Department of Economic Development, and Triple Horse President Karl Horstmann said there is plenty of demand from Hollywood and elsewhere to accommodate new production sites.

“That tax incentive is what is driving business out of California,” Horstmann said. “There’s so much (production) work coming to the state, they’re literally shooting in warehouses.”

EUE/Screen Gems built a studio in the Lakewood area of Southeast Atlanta a few years ago.

Tyler Perry has a large studio near Greenbriar Mall and recently told Entertainment Tonight he is contemplating a “huge” expansion there for his own productions.

In Effingham County, near Savannah, Medient Studios plans a $90 million studio that could create 1,000 jobs.

There are other studios in the metro Atlanta area, including in Senoia and Hiram, and Atlanta is also home to Turner and its massive television assets like TBS, CNN and Cartoon Network.

Clayton County has a film sound stage in a converted former Ingle’s supermarket, and economic development officials there envision a new $75 million town center around the stage to serve as a new gateway to Clayton State University.

Triple Horse’s plans call for at least 50 to 75 new jobs in the first phase to maintain and operate the facility, not including the potential for hundreds of production jobs for each movie and TV show shot. The second phase would increase that total by up to 150 permanent jobs in post-production roles.

Horstmann said Triple Horse has the backing of investors including private equity groups, which he declined to name.

Triple Horse is known mostly for its work in commercials – for brands including Bridgestone Golf– and in visual effects. Sister businesses provide sets and rental equipment for movies.

Sound stages can be glorified warehouses, but Horstmann said he envisions more sophisticated facilities. The campus’ post-production capacity would allow a film to be shot and edited in one location, rather than have portions of the work done elsewhere.

Hunter Hall, president of the Covington-Newton Chamber of Commerce, said having full movie-making capabilities in Newton County would add to the jobs base and keep more of film’s production budget in the community.

Projects have been shot in Newton County since the 1950s, but the area became well-known as the location for the late ’80s-early ’90s TV series In the Heat of the Night. Its steady list of credits extends to this year’s Denzel Washington movie, “Flight,” which shot some scenes in Newton, and the TV teen drama The Vampire Diaries.

The community has a Walk of Fame devoted to projects that have filmed in the area. Hall said about 80 percent of the tourism related tax revenue in 2011 came from people visiting film or TV related sites.

The Triple Horse project is at least two years in the making, Hall said. It will receive economic development incentives, but Hall and Triple Horse officials declined to disclose them because the deal was not yet final.

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