Louisiana company announces a $200 million movie deal for state
NEW ORLEANS (AP) – A Louisiana film production company and its California partner announced a deal Thursday to bring more than $200 million in feature movie production to the state over the next three years.
LIFT Films of New Orleans and Element Films of Los Angeles will collaborate to produce at least eight, and as many as 15, films, officials with the companies said. All filming will be done in Louisiana only, and the projects will be spread out over three years to help stabilize the market.
“Knowing that there is going to be a certain baseline of business is only going to give people a greater comfort in staying here,” said Malcolm Petal, chief executive of the Louisiana Institute of Film Technology and LIFT Films, a joint venture formed last month with Bart Productions of New Orleans.
The deal also guarantees that the movies filmed under the new agreement will be viewed by a national audience with guaranteed theatrical release. Element Films will select projects, and LIFT will hire local crews to work on them, officials said.
Even people not directly involved in the deal said they were encouraged by what the deal could mean for New Orleans, where moviemaking has been almost stagnant since Hurricane Katrina hit Aug. 29, 2005.
“I suspect that its going to bring more of the film business back to the greater New Orleans area,” said Stephen Rue, president of the Motion Picture and Television Association of Louisiana. “A lot of people are hovering in the Shreveport area, unsure of the film landscape in New Orleans.”
Louisiana’s film industry took off after the state began offering tax incentives for motion picture production in 2002. After Katrina, the industry, which has had its base of operations in New Orleans for years, moved farther north.
Film industry executives have maintained that the move was a much-needed expansion for the budding industry and that the filming would return to New Orleans. Recently, movies starring Academy-Award winner Denzel Washington and Fantasia Barrino have been filmed here.
The first motion picture financed under the new agreement is “College,” a comedy about three high school seniors who have a wild weekend while visiting a local university as prospective freshmen.
Preproduction begins in New Orleans this fall, and Lions Gate, which was responsible for distributing last year’s Oscar winning movie “Crash,” has already agreed to bring “College” to theaters.
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