Tyler Perry is far from being the only filmmaker who has owned a production studio, which may come as a surprise to some. For example, Charlie Chaplin, Francis Ford Coppola, Robert
Aldrich, as well as Ridley and his late brother Tony Scott, have all either owned a film
studio, or held part ownership of one at one time or another.
perhaps the most successful of the lot, building his own studio in Los Angeles
in 1917, and owned it until 1953 when he sold all his U.S. properties and assets as he moved to Europe after running afoul with the U.S. Government because of
his progressive leftist political views, and his “immoral” behavior, resulting in
several public scandals.
isn’t the only black producer to own his own studio. There is also Oprah
Winfrey, of course, who founded Harpo Studios in Chicago in 1986, until it was
finally sold off to developers just a few months ago, earlier this year.
Winfrey, and long before Perry, there was Tim Reid and his wife Daphne Maxwell Reid, who, in 1997, built New Millennium Studios in Petersburg, Virginia. Moving on from years of acting, the Reids, who were true believers
of independent filmmaking - owning the means of production - built the studio to
make their own films and TV shows, as well as to attract other film productions to Virginia (which meant a lot to Tim Reid, who is a Norfolk, Virginia native).
And since it
first opened, dozens of films, such as Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln” and other film
and TV projects, have used the facility for production, including the Reids’ own film projects, such as “Asunder”, “Troop 491” and “For Real”.
But it goes without
saying that, owning and maintaining the day to day operations of a film studio
is a lot of work. It’s a monster, with enormous financial overhead and constant maintenance that eat up a ton of money.
The only way
to make it profitable is to constantly have projects in production at the studio.
Unfortunately, that is difficult in Virginia - unlike other Southern states such
as Georgia and Louisiana which have made huge investments in production tax
incentives and aggressive film production publicity.
As Reid said, "the initial plan was for New Millennium to become the centerpiece of a
Virginia film community, but the growth of the business in Virginia has been
hindered by a lack of incentives in the state".
with Reid is Andy Edmunds, director of the Virginia Film Office, who added that, “the state spends $6.5 million per year to bring productions to the state.
By contrast, Georgia invested $200 million in incentives last year… (We)
compete with 300 film offices in other states and countries, and to attract a
large-scale, big-budget production takes $20 million in incentives”.
So with these
difficulties in getting film and TV projects to New Millennium studios, as well as the
changing nature of the business overall, the Reids reluctantly decided to put the 57.
4 acre site (with its 14,850-square-foot sound studio) up for sale, and it was
recently bought for $1.475 million by Four Square Property Management LLC.
Sadly the property will be used by Four Square, for the time being, as a
storage facility. The president of the group, Steve Sadler, said, “We’re
not developers. I’m not sure what we’ll do with the property. We’ll get in
there and get settled and then come up with a plan”.
A rather ignoble
end for a such a grand venture, and though the Reids say that they have plans to
build a smaller production studio in Richmond, Virginia, their dream of
being a major force in film production
in the South may have come to an end.
But we have
to admire them for the their efforts in trying to bring about some real change
in independent filmmaking, and the emphasis on black ownership, and one cannot deny that they had
a genuine positive impact for nearly 20 years. We hope that their next venture
will be successful as well.