Effingham development authority CEO weighs in on massive movie studio

Effingham development authority CEO weighs in on massive movie studio

EFFINGHAM CO., GA (WTOC) - A movie studio with a grand plan for the Coastal Empire is moving forward. Medient Studios has announced a $40 million deal with India-based visual effects and film equipment company Prime Focus Ltd. Under the agreement, Prime Focus is to provide all filming and post-production equipment for Medient's planned Effingham County studio, billed as the biggest movie studio in the U.S.

This British horror film "Storage 24" has been Medient's most significant success and is the only movie its website lists as "in theaters." The site lists four films as coming soon. Trailers to those films were posted online in January 2011 and September 2012.

Medient is a publicly traded company. On March 20, the day after Medient signed a memorandum of understanding with the Effingham County Industrial Development Authority, Medient was trading for 40 cents a share. Stock prices shot up to $1.30 share five days later. Tuesday, the closing price was 19 cents a share.

In an interview at the proposed site of the studio, off Interstate 16 near the Effingham/Chatham County line, development authority CEO John Henry says he's still confident Medient can deliver on its promises.

"If I weren't, I wouldn't be here today," he said. "I wouldn't have recommended that we move further down the road with this project if I wasn't convinced that it's going to come to fruition."

Medient has proposed a $90 million movie studio, employing 1,200 people, with a massive music venue and video gaming complex on site.

The development authority has promised $1.25 million in site work -- such as building roads and running sewer lines

"We've got some skin in the game," Henry said, adding that Medient has to show "financial capacity" before the development authority starts spending money.

Given the ambition of the project, WTOC asked Henry whether he's concerned that Medient CEO Manu Kumaran isn't a bigger Hollywood name.

"There are a lot of movies out there," Henry said. "I don't know who's making them or what there is behind them. You mentioned Steven Spielberg. The odds of Steven Spielberg coming to Effingham County are pretty slim. But there's a lot that I don't know about the movie industry. There are a lot of people out there doing it. I have Netflix, and I realize there are a lot of movies out there being made by somebody. I don't know. I take everybody for what they say they're going to do. And as long as they're meeting those obligations, every deal is treated equally."

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