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New film mega-studio in Chicago won’t have much impact on Twin Cities efforts

A giant new film studio now under construction in an old Chicago steel factory probably won’t have much impact on the Minnesota film and television industry, said Lucinda Winters, executive director of the Minnesota Film and TV Board.

The $80 million project will turn six buildings on 50 acres of the old the Ryerson Steel property on Chicago’s Near Southwest Side into the biggest state-of-the-art film studio outside of Hollywood, planners say.

They’re calling it Cinespace Chicago, and owner Nick Mirkopoulos is a Toronto studio owner. One 330,000-square-foot stage could be ready by January, and the rest is scheduled for completion in a year or so. They think it will create 6,000 jobs.

With the very complicated economics of movie-making — involving incentives to filmmakers varying greatly by state and country, plus exchange rates and local costs — Winters says the planned studio probably won’t affect film and TV work here.

“If you’re asking, will this benefit Minnesota? I’d have to say no,” she said today from Los Angeles, where she’s attending a film convention. “It won’t have much influence on our business here. The only bump might be if this draws some large productions who might come as far as Minnesota to look for talent. We’re known as having a good, diverse acting pool.”

She said Illinois offers filmmakers a 30 percent incentive to work there, more than Minnesota’s current 15 to 20 percent incentives, depending on the size of the project. The combination of the relatively high incentive, plus the new studio, should help Chicago snag some projects, she said.

Minnesota board efforts are further hampered by its relatively small $1.2 million budget for this fiscal year. “Until the last days of the Legislature, I thought we would be getting $5 million,” Winter said.

“[The Chicago studio] should be good for the Midwest as a whole, because it provides more flexibility and the opportunity to choose another studio, but without the incentives, nobody goes anywhere,” she said.

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