Pinewood Studios Atlanta Leaving Fayetteville Georgia Due To Disney, Star Wars, Politics

(Last Updated On: December 25, 2019)

Atlanta – The name “Pinewood Studios Atlanta Fayetteville Georgia” will remain for another 18 months, as the studio brand famous for the James Bond movie franchise has announced it’s sold its share of the giant complex 50 miles outside of Atlanta.

Contrary to the reports of some media outlets, part of the reason for Pinewood Studios leaving Fayetteville, Georgia is directly tied to the State of Georgia’s “fetal heartbeat abortion law” that Governor Brian Kemp signed into law and is facing a court challenge. But the timing of the law was also bad in that it came at a terrible time for motion picture economic development in Georgia, as a whole. Let’s see why.

First, the End of Star Wars Movie Series filming impacted Georgia. There were two primary drivers that caused the creation of Pinewood Studios Atlanta Fayetteville Georgia. The first was the delay in expansion of the Pinewood Studios Shepperton Studios facility due to a planning row with the town council that saw its application for expansion blocked, and not once, but twice, in 2012 and in 2013.

Second, that action happened just as Disney was deep into production planning for what would be a three – movie Star Wars series. The loss of new sound stage space that would have been available had Pinewood Studios Shepperton Studios expansion not been blocked, caused Disney and Pinewood to make a decision regarding where and when its then giant slate of planned movies would be made, and where.

Pinewood Studios Atlanta Fayetteville Georgia: 2013 – 2021</h2

In 2013, Pinewood announced plans to expand to Fayetteville, Georgia, and Toronto, Canada due to the need for space triggered by the Shepperton Studios expansion delay – the Rivers Rock LLC investment group owned the 288 acres upon which the studio was built.

After a brief flirtation with having the next James Bond film made in Georgia, the decision was to keep Bond in England, and along with the Star Wars movie series. Eventually, Star Wars Episode 7, the first of the series including Episode 8 and the upcoming Episode 9, was made in the UK and released in December of 2015.

Star Wars was at Pinewood in the UK due to Disney – in other words, Disney paid for the use of the Pinewood studios in the UK, and worldwide, including Georgia. That set the stage for Disney’s recent change of plans which creates what will a large hole in the otherwise filled donut of film-making activities in Georgia.

From a practical standpoint, the golden age of Marvel Movies is over. With the possible exception of Black Panther II and Blade, not one of the new Marvel Movies named at San Diego Comic Con 2019 is generating any real buzz. That’s far different from 2012, when Marvel and Disney were working on the Avengers series and the slate of Spider-Man and Captain America and Guardians of the Galaxy movies was in its production pipeline – all financed by Disney and made in Georgia.

Now, the factors of the Shepperton Studios expansion unblocked and under way, the sound Pinewood Shepperton stages available now that Star Wars is done, and the more aggressive California Film Commission economic incentives and sales effort designed to take production back from Georgia, made it easier for Disney Chairman Bob Iger to have the firm pull out of Georgia when the abortion bill was announced as signed.

Note that of all of the Marvel Phase 4 films, none are set to be made at “Pinewood Studios Atlanta Fayetteville Georgia”, but at least two are set for Shepperton Studios. There are reports that Captain Marvel II will be made in California after Captain Marvel was made in Fayetteville. That’s Disney money leaving Georgia. The one remaining production set consists of Falcon and the Winter Soldier starring Anthony Mackie and Sabastian Stan, and possibly one more Tom Holland Spider-Man movie. And There’s an outside chance Black Panther II may be the lone holdover, as Black Panther was made at both Fayetteville and Tyler Perry Studios, and Disney under Chairman Bob Iger is more politically sensitive to keeping production for that movie close to Atlanta.

That should end the idea that Pinewood is in the game of paying for content: the fact is, it never paid for the Disney films, Disney did – Pinewood is a facilities operator far more than content developer. Disney paid for and drove Pinewood Studios Star Wars and Marvel-led reasons for expansion, and now that such space is no longer needed, Pinewood was forced to contract. Still, and again, no future Marvel movie is to be made in Georgia, and at least two, the Black Widow movie being one of them, will be made in the UK, and not in Fayetteville.

Thus, the talk that Pinewood Studios isn’t in the content business is a cover story for the truth: Disney’s not paying money to use Georgia movie studios, and that’s why Pinewood’s leaving.

Overall, both Disney and Netflix are reportedly going to spend big in the UK.

End Of An Era In Fayetteville, Atlanta, And Georgia

In 18th months, we will see the end of an era that started in 2014, and saw the State of Georgia rise to a place where it represented 26 percent of all major motion picture production in the World. What’s left is a seeds of an incredible new town called Pinewood Forest, but given that its namesake is leaving, will it reach its full level of development?

What’s the lesson for Fayette County and Georgia? To make sure that you maintain the same economic development and political structure you had that caused economic growth to happen. Georgia started to take its rich movie industry for granted after the 2018 election, and forgot that much of that industry came from somewhere else, like California.

They had to VFX business owners like Shant Jordan of Synaptic VFX told me when we met at San Diego Comic Con, that Georgia was “where all the work was.”

A number of movie industry workers who live in California were upset that the State of California was slow to respond to the challenge of Georgia, and so lobbied at every turn. What helped their cause was the abortion ban in Georgia – the Worldwide movie industry responded to that.

Georgia didn’t seem to realize that it was up against a movie industry that was richly financed from global sources; when Georgia Governor Brian Kemp basically told Disney and Netflix to leave, Disney’s Iger had zero problem saying “Okay”. And Netflix inked a deal to make movie and television programs in the UK, not Georgia in America.

Stay tuned.


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