Article in The Albuquerque Tribune: Studio aims to launch project

Just because two major film industry players are considering building production facilities in New Mexico, local studio co-owner Michael Jacobs isn’t worried about losing business.

Even with the potential competition from Lionsgate and Pacifica Ventures, Jacobs, co-owner of Rio Grande Studios, is considering an expansion that could include 200 acres and five new sound stages at one of five possible sites in New Mexico.

“The state,” he said, “is big enough to have a couple of studios for work.”

No date is set to launch the project, but Jacobs vowed “we will do this.”

Jacobs says his confidence is based on two factors:

The state’s film production incentives – primarily a 25 percent tax rebate and no-interest loans up to $15 million – that are generating a lot of interest from moviemakers.

His own connections, made during 25 years of working in Hollywood as a photojournalist.

“I have all my contacts and that includes most of the studio heads, executives and producers,” he said. “I’m not going to fight Culver (a California studio owned by Pacifica Ventures) or Lionsgate for work when I have my own contacts, my own stable, so to speak. If they do it, fine.”

Meanwhile, there seems to be plenty of movement on the movie industry front.

Although a Lionsgate official said the company has not yet finalized any deal to build a studio in New Mexico, company brass and the state are engaged in an “advanced discussion,” said Peter Wilkes, head of investor relations for the company.

No officials contacted with Pacifica Ventures or Forest City Covington NM LLC – the company managing the sprawling Mesa del Sol – would comment on the possibility of a new studio being built at the development south of the Albuquerque International Sunport.

However, documents submitted to the city Planning Department request approval of a permit for the construction of a “motion picture studio” on 28 acres within Mesa del Sol. The documents were submitted by a local company on behalf of another company tied to Pacifica Ventures.

Forest City also recently announced a Thursday news conference about a “coming attraction” at Mesa del Sol, but the conference was canceled due to concerns about the weather.

The Pacifica Ventures Web site describes an “eight-stage facility planned for construction at Mesa del Sol” that would provide film, TV and post-production services.

Rio Grande Studios will not be moving into Mesa del Sol, Jacobs said. The company, located in northwest Albuquerque, has worked on TV shows, commercials and one independent film.

State Investment Council spokesman Charlie Wollman could not say how much the state might invest in a new Lionsgate studio because negotiations were ongoing.

Lionsgate is leasing space in Rio Rancho for production of its “Wildfire” TV series. The Investment Council recently approved another $15 million investment for the third season of the series, described as “doing well” by Wollman.

“Wildfire” had received three separate loans – of $4.1 million, $15 million and $15 million – prior to the latest loan. The $4.1 million has been paid back.

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