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UPDATED: Governor helps Covington film studio break ground on expansion
From left, State Rep. Kasey Carpenter, chairman of the Georgia House Creative Arts & Entertainment Committee; studio co-owner Cary Goldman; Gov. Brian Kemp; studio co-owner Rahim Charania; Cinelease General Manager Gannon Murphy; and State Insurance Commissioner John King shovel dirt for a ceremonial groundbreaking for a 50-acre expansion of Cinelease Studios-Three Ring in north Covington. - photo by Tom Spigolon

COVINGTON, Ga. — Gov. Brian Kemp helped Cinelease Studios-Three Ring break ground for its planned $144 million expansion this week.

Kemp joined co-owners Rahim Charania and Cary Goldman, Cinelease Studios General Manager Gannon Murphy, State Insurance Commissioner John King and State Rep. Kasey Carpenter, chairman of the Georgia House Creative Arts & Entertainment Committee, for a ceremonial Golden Shovel event to celebrate the expansion set to cover more than 50 acres on Ga. Hwy. 142.

It will be among the largest film studios in the country when complete and is the only public-private partnership that has developed infrastructure for the film and TV industry in Georgia, officials said.

Newton County Industrial Development Authority owns the property and leases it to the studio owner as part of a tax incentive agreement.

The facility is owned and developed by a joint venture between Charania of Atlanta-based real estate firm Woodvale, and Goldman of Chicago-based real estate firm Timberhill Group.

Charania began work to create what formerly was named Three Ring Studios in 2017. 

“This vision was not my own,” Charania told a crowd before the groundbreaking. 

“It grew from elected officials from Newton County and the city of Covington that crossed party lines, that crossed any kinds of ideological differences, because they had an idea,” Charania said.

“That idea was something great could be done in Covington, Georgia. That jobs could be brought here. With the right kind of assistance and the right platform for job creation something magical can happen in Covington.

“For years, the city officials and state officials labored together to come up with an idea, recruit and develop a team, and give them the space to operate so that they can deliver a project that you’re looking at today.”

Murphy said the foundation was laid when Newton County and Covington joined with Charania and Goldman “to make the ultimate commitment” to build the current facility.

“That public-private partnership and local commitment brings us here today,” Murphy said.

The expansion will include 336,000 square feet of new space at the existing studio complex on Ga. Hwy. 142.

It will add eight new stages to bring it to a total of 14 purpose-built sound stages totaling 276,000 square feet; 100,000 square feet of office space; two new construction mill and storage spaces totaling 72,800 square feet and 50,000 square feet of flexible space on a total of more than 90 acres.

Murphy said Cinelease built its first studio in 2020 in Georgia because of the state’s commitment to being a business-friendly work environment for filmmakers and incentives like the state’s film tax credit.

As a result, “volume and demand have never been so strong” for use of its studios, he said.

Cinelease Studios saw now was a good time to undertake such a major expansion because all sound stages are fully booked through the end of this year, Murphy said.

He also said the company is expanding in Covington to help keep productions returning to Georgia “year after year.”

After the groundbreaking, Charania said it took the “courage of conviction” by local business leaders to undertake a venture for which few had experience locally.

The Industrial Development Authority approved a $106.7 million bond resolution in 2017 to finance construction. The owners were to make lease payments equal to the debt service on the bonds. 

They will take ownership after an initial incentive period, said IDA attorney Frank Turner Jr.

Kemp said the “impact of the productions that come here go far beyond the film industry.”

“These investments bring more money, more jobs and more opportunities to communities like Covington,” he said. “This expansion is a great example of how rural areas can produce big gains both for their region and all of Georgia.” 

Jessa Grazioplene, director of Studio Client Relations for Cinelease, said production crews range from a few workers to several hundred, but their spending fuels Georgia’s economy.

“From creating more jobs to renewing long-term leases on land, our vertical growth expansion of our 572,000 square-foot, purpose-built studio reinforces our local economic commitment,” she said.

Cinelease and partner Herc Entertainment Services are projected to complete the expansion in late 2023, officials said.