While plans to create a 100,000-square-foot movie studio at a Norristown shopping center with $10 million in Pennsylvania taxpayer funds have languished and the very idea of state subsidies for Hollywood is under attack, a King of Prussia developer has turned an empty Philadelphia factory building into a larger "studio filming space" that's already attracted an A-list project, and interest from others, without a dime of government money.
Director M. Night Shyamalan and Paramount Pictures are filming parts of "The Last Airbender" at a 180,000-square-foot former Budd Co. warehouse in East Falls, says Nicholas P. Cannone of landlord Preferred Unlimited Inc.
"Paramount and M. Knight's team are currently constructing massive sets, some close to three stories high, making use of the staggering 35-foot ceiling heights and 75-foot column bays" where Budd used to build stainless-steel railcars and auto parts, Cannone told me.
Filming starts this spring, with a sequel on the drawing board. "We hope to have Paramount and M. Knight on site for a few years." Cannone says Sony Pictures and other "major studios have toured our site in hopes to reuse the remaining warehouse space on site as studio space."
Preferred, owned by developer Michael O'Neill, has rehabbed other parts of the Budd complex as a 260,000 square foot office building for Temple University Health Sytem on Hunting Park Ave. and a 30,000-square foot Fresenius Medical Dialysis Center. And it donated 12 acres to the Salvation Army "to be developed into a Ray and Joan Kroc Community Center," funded by the late McDonald's founders' foundation, where construction began last month.