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Atlanta approves Screen Gems deal


WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- On the same night what could be the final episode of "One Tree Hill" aired, the studio that made Wilmington Hollywood East got the land deal it wanted two states away. The Atlanta City Council unanimously approved a 50-year lease for EUE/Screen Gems to build a new studio in Georgia's capital, the Atlanta-Journal Constitution reports.

Screen Gems will pay the city $250,000 a year for the first decade and $600,000 thereafter to transform 30 acres of the Lakewood Fairgrounds into the area's first state-of-the-art studio complex, including converting Lakewood's historic Spanish Mission Revival exhibition halls into studios, as well as build a sound stage upwards of 40,000 square feet that could accommodate television, commercial, digital and film productions, according to the proposal.

Screen Gems VP Bill Vassar told WWAY last week he does not believe the Atlanta facility will hurt business for Wilmington. Vassar said Atlanta would draw more urban-set productions, while Wilmington would continue to draw productions that need rural and coastal settings.

The deal would require EUE/Screen Gems to invest about $6 million in the project. Roughly $1 million will go toward the exhibition hall renovation, said John Lavelle, director of the City of Atlanta's real estate portfolio.

Georgia and North Carolina have competed for productions in recent years that to tax incentives. Last year Gov. Bev Perdue planned to announce the Nicholas Sparks-written "The Last Song," starring Miley Cyrus, would shoot in Wilmington, including Screen Gems new dream stage. At the last minute, Perdue canceled the announcement because a deal could not be finalized. The production eventually moved to the coast of Georgia.

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