A New Entertainment Production Empire
It’s a typically wonderful Atlanta day, with it’s abnormally wonderful weather, so you decide to go through a little jaunt through downtown. As you go about your little stroll, you notice bright yellow signs pointing down certain streets with the word “FIGARO” scrawled on it. Curious, you follow them.
A few minutes later, you reach “FIGARO” and spot some familiar faces there -- Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Paul Rudd, Chadwick Boseman, Scarlett Johansson, Chris Hemsworth, and many, many more. That’s right -- “FIGARO” is, in fact, the production code for the upcoming mega-blockbuster, “The Avengers: Infinity War Part 1,” filming right here in downtown Atlanta. In fact, your odds are pretty good, if not a slam dunk, that if the movie or show you just watched wasn’t filmed in New York City or California, it was filmed in Atlanta or Georgia in general.
the current clientele
On the movie front, Atlanta has become Marvel Studios’ go-to spot, with both “Ant-Man” films, “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” “Captain America: Civil War,” “Black Panther,” and “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2” all filming here, just to name a few. Atlanta also has become Tyler Perry’s base of operations, as literally every film with the prefix “Tyler Perry’s” is filmed in the city. And it doesn’t end there; “The Hunger Games” franchise, “Anchorman 2,” and this year’s big hit “Baby Driver” were all filmed right here in Georgia. The list goes on for days.
And television is just as, if not even more, active here, with endless projects filming here regularly. “The Vampire Diaries,” “Stranger Things,” “Archer,” “Atlanta,” and, of course, the one that started it all, “The Walking Dead.” Rodney Ho, a reporter for The Atlantic Journal-Constitution, notes, “There are nine scripted shows being shot in Atlanta. One on ABC, one on CBS, three on Fox, and four on the CW, which is by far the most we’ve had so far and doesn’t even include those shot by Netflix, which has at least three shows shooting here. Amazon’s shooting a couple shows here. Syfy’s got a few shows here. AMC has a couple shows shooting here. Almost every network that does scripted programming has something shooting here.” For every one of those networks to be involved in one area is absolute insanity for an area that isn't N.Y.C. or L.A.
Speaking of New York and Los Angeles, Atlanta is hot on their trails with production at a level so wildly profitable it’d make Ebenezer Scrooge blush. In 2016 alone, Georgia productions made $2.02 billion off of 245 productions, resulting in an economic impact of $7.2 billion. As George Harrison might exclaim, my sweet lord. That, my friends, is a lot of money. And what’s even more astounding is how fast the industry has grown. In 2013, those numbers were 142 productions, making $933 million for $3.3 billion in impact. In 2007, just nine years ago, there were only 48 productions with $93 million made for an impact of $242 million. For you math whizzes out there, that is a jaw dropping five times as many productions being made, 22 times as much money being made, and nearly 30 times as much of an economic impact being made in just nine years. It’s like that scene in the aforementioned “Captain America: Civil War” where Ant-Man goes from being ant-sized to being a giant -- except economically.
Of course, with big business comes jobs, and the entertainment industry has helped create literally thousands of them. For the production of “Ant-Man” alone, 3,500 people were employed. For one production. Not too shabby. Let me throw another impressive number at you. The Atlanta film and television production industry is responsible for roughly 85,000 jobs in the state, directly and indirectly related to the industry. It’s just a freaking gold rush right now for Georgia, California’s looks like small potatoes.
tell me why
So what’s provoking such fantastic filming fervor in the area? There are a few factors, none of which have anything to do with money.
Of course, that was a joke, and the primary reason is, naturally, centered entirely on money. In 2005, a bill by the name of HB1100 was passed, otherwise known as the Entertainment Industry Investment Act -- how fancy is that name? Right off the bat, it was a filmmaker’s dream, offering tax incentives that would make Donald Trump salivate. Slowly but surely, the bill was revised and edited to its current glory, where a production that costs 500,000 dollars or more to make gets a fat, juicy tax credit of twenty percent, with an extra ten percent if you reference the state or feature their logo at some point during your credits. You know you’ve seen the logo before, the big Georgia peach, sometimes with a man rocking a robustly deep voice powerfully stating in a voiceover that what you just watched was “MADE IN GEORGIA.”
So that’s a 30 percent tax credit you’re getting just for having your production “MADE IN GEORGIA.” Not a bad gig, huh?
Shockingly, though, the allure of the Peach State for production purposes isn’t all money-based. If you take a little cruise through our fine state, you’ll find that you’re really running quite the geographical gamut. Georgia’s got beaches, mountains, forests, sleepy little rural towns and hustlin’ and bustlin’ cities. So want to film a scene in “New York?” Let’s try downtown Atlanta, they won’t notice the difference! A skyscraper’s a skyscraper, right? Want to film, say, a show about zombies that takes your characters through seemingly endless miles of woods? Try the little town of Senoia, which AMC’s “The Walking Dead” has made into a quite a thriving community. You name it, Georgia’s got it.
So we’ve got a state with tons of geographic variation, a ridiculous tax incentive, and a humming metropolis that’s one of the biggest cities in the nation. Sounds like a recipe for success as is. But there’s one more contributing factor that is worth noting, and that is the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Hartsfield-Jackson has 26 direct flights to Los Angeles alone, which is a huge advantage. But, it also helps that the airport is literally the busiest airport in the United States. With that much of a transportation hub in your state, that’s only going to make business even better.
don't stop me now
Because of all this, Atlanta and Georgia’s production industries are constantly growing. Sound stages and production studios are only becoming more and more prevalent, some spanning several acres. Pinewood Studios, arguably the most popular in the area due to its involvement in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, has 18 sound stages on over 700 acres of land, and it even has its own Home Depot. Its own Home Depot! Come on!
So sure, enjoy your L.A.’s and your N.Y.C.’s. That’s fine, they’re remarkable cities. But there's another set of initials in mind, as you may be hearing more and more about it as it becomes bigger and bigger in the production industry. Those initials are A.T.L.
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