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"Staged For Success"

New and Growing Studios
Have the Competitive Edge

Opening a new studio is an interesting proposition these days, to put it mildly. Today's studio executives have to be concerned not only about the massive expense and demand in a given market but also the ever-looming specter of Canada with its tax incentives and favorable exchange rate that have severly impacted the US production industry in recent years.

Then there's New Millennium Studios in Petersburg, Virginia just south of Richmond. Tim Reid opened the studios' doors in 1997 and has been able to stay competitive by renting the studio and producing his own television shows and movies. He has a few observations anyone in the business might be wise to heed.

A man who knows the ropes about ownership -- and there are some slippery ones to climb these days -- is Tim Reid. With his wife Daphne Maxwell Reid he opened New Millennium Studios in Petersburg, Virginia four years ago. Despite some struggles with the business, Reid talks excitedly about how New Millennium "has to build another soundstage this summer, without a dbout."

Reid, a veteran actor, producer and director, is eager to discuss the ups and downs of studio ownership. "I don't think anyone in our business could have foreseen the incredible negative impact that Canada has had on our business in the US," he says. "It's literally taken the wind out of the sails. Today, producers shoot 90 percent of TV movies there, and I think if you go back and ask anyone if they would get into the studio business again, they'd have to reconsider."

 

There was a time, not so long ago, when studios could look forward to ample income from those runaway TV movies. To compensate, Reid and company are "shifting more into [being] a content producer, so we create product in-house," he reports. "We've also shot about 40 spots in the last 30 months. We're a hybrid, since we produce content, which you have to do[now]. And we're lucky to be doing that."

One ongoing production has Reid particularly excited. New Millennium hosted a syndicated TV special called American Legacy: A Television Special, which aired over the last two months in different markets. It will be followed by an in-house-produced series, based on the black history and lifestyle magazine of the same name, which will launch this fall. "Wel'll probably shoot our first American Legacy doc here," Reid says.

Another, as yet-unnamed, in-house production is also scheduled. "Once those two projects are financed, we'll probably start on the 18,000-square foot stage [30 percent larger than the existing stage] and control room for multi-camera production," reports Reid. "It'll cost about $2 million."

Other recent works at New Millennium includes Hearts In Atlantis, a movie starring Sir Anthony Hopkins based on a Stephen King novel. It was shot late last year on the soundstage which alternately depicted three houses and a carnival at Virginia Beach.

"We've shot other movies here," Reid adds, "like Asunder, an in-house production released to theaters that will be on home video shortly, and Nothin' 2 Lose (not to be confused with the new Martin Lawrence picture) was produced on film for under $250,00, Reid points out; it would have cost at least $1 million in Hollywood he estimates. The feature will go straight to home video.

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