Covington’s been a filming mecca for years, but plans to build a huge studio complex could have the town landing Hollywood blockbusters a year from now.
Local company Triple Horse will build five new filming stages in Newton County, a $38 million expansion the company hopes will solidify it and the Newton County market as one of the top film production sites in Georgia.
The five stages will be the first part of an all-together $100 million expansion that will eventually include more post-production offices, filming equipment and other resources, as Triple Horse hopes to rival film production studios in Los Angeles, which is hemorrhaging film jobs.
Triple Horse, located off Technology Drive near City Pond Road, has been in Covington for more than a decade producing small films, commercials and promotional videos for large and small companies. The company already had a medium-size studio and post-production offices, but the addition of five large stages should allow them to regularly compete for some of the biggest productions in the country.
The vision is for big-budget films of all genres to film at the complex and eventually do all their post-production work as well, which would bring millions of dollars in wages and retail spending to the county and surrounding area.
The Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce facilitated the deal as part of its efforts to make Covington a filming destination both for production companies and tourists to bring jobs and revenue into the community.
Georgia crafted an aggressive film incentive program to try to turn the state into a major production player and has great success as more TV shows and movies headquarter their filming in Georgia, which has a wide range of climates and terrain. The state had $3.1 billion worth of filming projects last year.
The five stages are expected to be located on a 168-acre tract owned by the Newton County Industrial Development Authority off Ga. Highway 142 across from the Orchard Park subdivision near The Church at Covington.
Chamber President Hunter Hall said there is a local incentive package, but the details won’t be released until the deal is finalized. However, the majority of the project will be financed with private equity, most likely a small group of wealthy investors, according to Triple Horse CEO Karl Horstmann.
Once the land deal is finalized and construction starts, Horstmann said the studio should be up and running in less than a year.
Triple Horse Chief Operating Officer Dale Weller said the expansion would create 35 new full-time jobs and increased productions will create opportunities for hundreds of temporary jobs on a regular basis.
Besting the competition
Horstmann, the company’s founder and a former Turner executive, said the planned studio would overshadow facilities elsewhere in Georgia and the U.S., and some of those sites are raking in money and projects.
New Mexico has one high-quality studio in Albuquerque and the state has brought in $1.2 billion since 2008.
Horstmann said he’s already talked to half a dozen filmmakers currently making movies who would support such a studio venture.
The difference between Triple Horse’s plans and all of the other studios being built or converted and marketed around the state and country is quality, Horstmann said. Several studios are simply old metal shell buildings with no air conditioning, but Horstmann said sound stages need to be designed and built in a way to accommodate filming, including proper acoustics and power air conditioning that is nearly silent.
The stages would also be some of the largest outside Los Angeles, including a mega 45,000 square foot stage to accommodate productions like "The Avengers," which spent $220 million in Albuquerque during nine months of filming.
Triple Horse entered the film field three years ago, after mostly doing commercials and promotional work. The studio has slowly expanded its reach, renting out a full suite of film equipment to films like "Courageous" and the Sony-produced film "October Baby." Both films are the kind of values-based films that Triple Horse gravitates toward.
The company has four productions planned during the summer and has already finished two this year. The majority of films to date have been low-budget films under $3 million.
Officials pointed to two recent opportunities where such a studio complex could have captured extra money.
The Denzel Washington film "Flight" filmed their main crash scene in Newton County but then left for the rest of the production. Weller said the planned studio would have met all of their needs.
Similarly, AMC’s "The Walking Dead," one of cable’s top shows, was incredibly close to choosing Newton County as its filming base, but Hall said the county lost the show to another community. He said the planned studio might have made the difference.
He asked "The Vampire Diaries" tour guide Jessica Lowery, a successful entrepreneur, how she would like to be able to offer "The Walking Dead" tours as well.
For every one film job, officials estimate that 2.5 associated jobs are created, in fields like tourism, catering, car rentals and retail. California has lost at least 11,000 entertainment jobs and 25,000 associated jobs, Wellman said, and $2.4 billion in wages. Other states and communities are vying for that.
Georgia has the incentives, Newton County has the history of filming dating back decades to "In the Heat of the Night" and "Dukes of Hazzard" and now it will have the infrastructure to make it a leader in the field.
Along with the big announcement, the chamber unveiled its new tourism site, gocovington.com, which has a major component designed specifically to help film scouts and producers find locations, including lots of photo of popular filming sites, 360 degree panoramas of some sites, crew and filming support directories and specific instructions on how scouts and other can get more info.
The site is revolutionary, officials said, and was designed by Triple Horse based on their filming expertise.
More on this story and the new website will be published in future editions.