Pinewood Studios arrives in Fayette with hopes for 3,400 jobs


    Fayette County may soon be crowned as the TV and movie-making capital of Georgia, now that London’s Pinewood Studios has officially announced that its “full service film and entertainment studio complex” is under construction in rural Fayette County, directly across from Rivers Elementary School on Sandy Creek Road.

    A study by Georgia Tech has determined that once all three phases are developed, there could be as many as 3,400 jobs tied to the studio and ancillary businesses that are necessary for the TV and movie productions that will take place. Because of the need for specialized training, Pinewood is working on a “vocational job skills training component” to produce the necessary workforce although details are not yet available, officials said.

    Pinewood is in a hurry to get up and running on the 288-acre campus with hopes the first phase will be complete by January of 2014 so productions may begin. The first phase is expected to provide a $10.4 million direct financial impact for the county; but once the second and third phases are developed, the annual economic impact is forecast to be up to $378 million a year, the company said in its release.

    “Today’s agreement is another step forward for the Pinewood brand internationally,” said Pinewood CEO Ivan Dunleavy. “This new studio will target U.S. productions. Georgia has excellent fiscal and tax credit incentives as well as a great crew base. With River’s Rock, we have a well resourced partner that is committed to building a first class studio facility.”

    This will be Pinewood’s first U.S. venture, as the company is internationally known for hosting the filming of the James Bond movie series. Pinewood also will film scenes at its London locations for the upcoming “Avengers 2” movie.

    The first phase (pictured below) includes five soundstages and other ancillary buildings. The operation will be known as “Pinewood Atlanta” but is a partnership between Pinewood and River’s Rock LLC, a local investment group that will finance the construction costs.

    “We are tremendously excited to be creating a world-class studio in the state of Georgia and are looking forward to working with Pinewood in the many years to come,” said Jim Pace, the managing partner of River’s Rock LLC. “The Pinewood brand is so well-recognized in the global film industry and together there is a great opportunity to build an excellent facility that will attract the very best producers.”

    Pace, who heads Group Six, lives in Peachtree City and is the project manager for the construction.

    The project is fully funded “and will become a world-class studio for the production of film, television, music and video games,” according to the news release from Pinewood Studios.The first phase consists of the soundstages at 100,000 sq. ft. with another 100,000 sq. ft. of office space and 200,000 sq. ft. of workshops and service provider space.

    The second and third phases on the drawing board would add another 600,000 sq. ft. of stages and more than 70 acres of managed back lot space.

    Pinewood was lured to Fayette County in part because of the success Lifetime Television’s “Drop Dead Diva” has had filming in Peachtree City. The company also liked the site’s proximity to Hartsfield Jackson International Airport.

    Another significant draw was the abundance of potential outdoor locations, officials have said. Filming for a TV pilot recently took place on the Pinewood site, with the tract serving as a wooded, natural backdrop.

    Though the project will be built in a very rural area of Fayette County just north of Piedmont Fayette Hospital, developers have pledged that the buildings will be a significant distance from Sandy Creek Road, and additional landscaping will be installed to further screen the development.

    Plans are for the site to be annexed into Fayetteville to allow for the provision of sewer service to the site.

    Gov. Nathan Deal said the Pinewood Atlanta development “will contribute significantly to Georgia’s growing reputation as a top draw for movie and television productions.”

    “We welcome the business this world-renowned company will bring to the state and the jobs it will create for our crew base and supporting companies,” Deal said.

    Speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives David Ralston noted that Pinewood’s decision is “another example of how well the state’s tax incentive program is working.”

    “I know that Pinewood will not only serve as an important community partner but will also help attract future entertainment projects that will create jobs for Georgians,” Ralston said.

    Fayette County Commission Chairman Steve Brown said he thinks Pinewood’s reputation of “film and television excellence” makes a good match for the county’s quality of life.

    “We are delighted to have film powerhouse Pinewood Studios in Fayette County,” Brown said.

    In 2012, state officials measured the direct economic benefits of film production in Georgia to be nearly $3.1 billion. The filmmaking business was said to positively impact thousands of businesses including hotels, restaurants, grocery stores and rental car companies to hardware stores, lumber yards, garden nurseries, heavy equipment rentals and office supply companies.

    As for the educational workforce component of the project in a future phase, both the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) and Clayton State University have both been reportedly under consideration with the use of Rivers Elementary School.

    Below, an artist’s sketch of the proposed entrance to the studios’ property.