Georgia's film industry entering 'critical next phase'
In a move that will make Georgia’s film industry more robust, Frank Patterson, president of Pinewood Atlanta, is announcing a $16.5 million investment in two entertainment companies that will produce content in Georgia.
Patterson has started his own Green Honey venture firm that is making multimillion investments in two companies – Los Angeles-based Sutikki and New York-based Believe Entertainment Group. The two companies will base their productions at Pinewood Atlanta Studios, based in Fayette County.
“These are equity investments in the companies themselves,” Patterson said in an interview. “We are actually investing in the company themselves. We love their work. Their production offices will be located at Pinewood. With our equity stake, we are going to be on the boards of these companies.”
Patterson also said this is just the beginning. Green Honey plans to raise a total of $60 million in 2020 to invest in three other content-production companies as well as entertainment technology firms – all with the intent of broadening film and television production in Georgia.
The news follows an announcement in August that the U.K-based Pinewood Group Limited was selling its stake in Pinewood Atlanta to its local joint venture partners – River’s Rock LLC, an independently-managed trust of Dan Cathy and his family. Cathy, CEO of Chick-fil-A Inc., was, and continues to be, the lead investor in Pinewood Atlanta.
Pinewood Atlanta now has more than one million square feet, and it claims to be the second-largest purpose-built studio in the United States.
Patterson said the plan is to relaunch Pinewood Atlanta with a new name in the middle of 2020 and to continue creating an “ecosystem” for the film industry by expanding in the origination, funding, production and distribution of entertainment content from Georgia. Pinewood Atlanta also will seek to deepen the bench of the 49 entertainment-related companies already located at its studios.
“That’s the critical next phase of the growth of this industry in Georgia,” Patterson said. “We are moving from a facilities place to being home to the companies that are producing the content. We are also locating talent here.”
In the interview, Patterson announced that his venture firm – Green Honey – has acquired a stake in Pinewood Atlanta. The investment in both the studio and the content companies is a “doubling-down” in Patterson’s belief that Georgia will continue to be a major center for the film industry.
Sutikki is a family entertainment company that last year produced 50 episodes of the new television series Moon & Me at Pinewood Atlanta Studios. The series was co-created and co-produced by Andy Davenport, who is best known as the creator of Teletubbies.
The show proved popular with audiences when it made its global television premiere on the BBC in early February 2019, and its U.S. premiere on NBC/Universal in May 2019.
Believe Entertainment Group is a New York City-based entertainment company that produces high-profile, talent-driven content for digital, TV, and theatrical distribution. The company earned both an Academy Award and an Emmy Award last year for Kobe Bryant’s Dear Basketball.
Believe Entertainment plans to locate a production office at Pinewood Atlanta, and it has a slate of projects in development to produce in Georgia.
Patterson said that all but $3 million of the $16.5 million investment was raised in Georgia – primarily from high net worth individuals and private equity firms. Cathy is not one of those investors.
“This is a big growth move for us,” said Patterson, who said this was in addition to Pinewood Atlanta’s “core business” as the studio where major film productions for Marvel and Warner Brothers are produced. “They’re not going anywhere.”
With last year’s passage by the Georgia legislature of the anti-abortion “heart-beat bill” and the possible reintroduction of religious liberty legislation during the 2020 legislative session, film industry executives have expressed concern that companies could decide to not produce their shows in Georgia.
At the same time, there continues to be scrutiny of the value of the film tax credits on the state’s economy. Since Georgia enhanced its film tax credits in 2008, it has become a top production center for movies and television shows.
Patterson expressed confidence that Georgia will continue to be a major center for film and television production, and he downplayed the risk of state legislation that would jeopardize the industry.
“Georgia has been so very smart about its business policy positions,” said Patterson, who moved to the state in 2016. “Call me naïve..., but my experience is that there are state leaders who are too business savvy to make a mistake that would cause the industry to go away. I believe in the state of Georgia, and I believe in the film industry.”
Read the original article in the Atlanta Business Chronicle, here.