Atlanta Metro Studios is set to open its doors by May 25, according to co-founder Ed Richardson.

Richardson said the first phase of the project will boast 135,000 square feet of soundstages, 60,000 square feet of office space and 50,000 square feet of space for construction as needed.

It will be able to provide green screens for shooting outdoors.

“We’re looking to host the largest productions in the world and show everything Georgia has to offer from exterior locations to, now, much more infrastructure,” he said.

Richardson spoke as part of a panel discussion hosted by the Airport Area Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday at the Georgia International Convention Center in College Park.

The focus of the event was the expansion of the entertainment industry in the Atlanta area.

The studio will open on the former site of Shannon Mall in Union City.

Richardson said the city’s existing infrastructure makes it an attractive spot for a studio.

However, the biggest draw, he said, is Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, which he said is only five minutes away.

“It is a huge, huge benefit,” Richardson said. “A lot of times, if you’re filming a movie in Louisiana, you have to go through Atlanta to then go back to Louisiana. The fact that people can get here with one short flight from anywhere in the country, it’s just a huge, huge benefit for us.”

Lee Thomas, event host and deputy commissioner of film, music and digital entertainment for the Georgia department of economic development, touted the rapidly increasing role of show business in the Georgia economy.

“The first 25 years of our film office, from 1973 to 1998, we did $2.5 billion,” she said. “Last year we did $6 billion in one year.”

One big reason for the expansion, she said, is the state’s tax credit incentive.

Film companies can receive up to a 30 percent tax credit if they include a Georgia peach in their end credits.

If the company does not pay Georgia taxes, they can sell the tax credit to anybody who has income tax liability in the state.

Thomas said film production often translates into money for other local businesses, including food, lodging and construction.

But if Atlanta Metro and other new studios produce new classic films, she said, the south metro area may see a new source of income altogether – movie tourism.

“We spend a lot of time trying to bring projects to Georgia, but we know a lot of the impact is going to be years later,” Thomas said. “One of the biggest tourist draws for Newton County is still ‘The Dukes of Hazzard.’ They only shot five episodes there in 1979, but it’s still a tourist draw.”

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