From Bert Hesse, CEO of Studio Charlotte; Hal Katersky, chairman of Pacifica Ventures; and Dana Arnold, CEO of Pacifica Ventures, in response to last Sunday’s editorial, “Eastland questions the city should ask”:

Recently the Charlotte Observer published an editorial asking three probing questions regarding the proposal to turn the former Eastland Mall site into a film and television production facility, along with a film school, a magnet school, a youth center, theater complex, retail marketplace as well as work lofts and office space.

The editorial writer asks, “Would Charlotte be joining a glut of new movie studios?” Hardly. The entire East Coast of the United States has fewer than 40 purpose built sound stages while there are more than 250 in Los Angeles. Without sound stages, films and television productions can shoot only on “location,” limiting local crew hires and restricting the proven economic benefit the industry brings to a region. Given those facts, the Observer’s question should be: “Why aren’t there more facilities being built to grow this industry’s strong job creating engine?”

The Observer then inquires: “Is Pacifica Ventures a reliable project partner?” In the past decade, Pacifica has successfully built two major studio facilities, one in New Mexico and one in Pennsylvania. Additionally, Pacifica is commencing construction on a third in Connecticut, which has been delayed by government-mandated modifications. The State of Connecticut did its due diligence on Pacifica and stands firm in its support, financial and political, for the CT Studios project.

Pacifica Ventures completed its developments in the most challenging economic times in more than 50 years. The referenced bankruptcy affected only the local New Mexico entity and was a financial restructuring that converted debt into equity, resulting in no debt today. Pacifica’s New Mexico facility recently hosted the third most financially successful film in U.S. history: The Avengers, a production which brought millions of dollars in spending, thousands of local crew jobs, and more than 35,000 hotel room nights to the state. Today the studio is home to two major network television series, one from NBC and one from ABC. Eastland will certainly enjoy similar results at Studio Charlotte.

All of which hinges on the answer to the Observer’s third question, “What’s the future of North Carolina’s film incentives?” No one can answer that question with any certainty today. The hundreds of millions of dollars in economic benefit brought here by the film industry is quickly evaporating due to the uncertainty the indecision on this issue has created. The City of Charlotte, like the Studio Charlotte investors, cannot and should not commit to this project, creating thousands of local construction and production jobs, when the future of North Carolina’s film industry is in doubt.

Finally, the Observer wonders why the City should move forward with this project when “a better one might come later.” The City’s RFP process was wide-ranging, open and fair; there are no better ideas today. Studio Charlotte will bring revitalization to the east side with jobs, revenue and educational opportunities.

The reality is that the substantial infrastructure requirements of the Eastland Mall site will require millions of City dollars, creating a serious hurdle for any future development of the property and this is not specific to just the Studio Charlotte project.

Charlotte Observer 2013