Real estate developer Joel Harber of Athens is a hometown boy and University of Georgia graduate.
So it makes sense that, when he saw the billions of dollars being spent in the state on movie and TV productions, he wanted to bring some of that economic impact to his city.
Harber’s development and brokerage firm Reynolds Capital is among the organizations building a 45-acre, 350,000 square foot studio, to be called — appropriately enough – Athena Studios. Others involved include developer Tim Burgess, Raulet Property Partners, Cinelease, the Georgia Film Academy, and UGA’s film studies program.
“This is a significant investment outside the bubble of metro Atlanta,” he says of the $60 million studio. “It really proves that the tax credit isn’t going to get gobbled up” in just one region of the state.
He also hopes it leads to more content development and post-production being brought to Georgia. Those before-filming and after-filming segments still typically take place in Hollywood, he said.
“Then we’ll have the full ecosystem, and, who knows? In 50 years, Georgia could be the new Hollywood of the country.”
Harber says a long-running, episodic TV series would be ideal, since that would bring an element of continuity to the economic impact. He expects the first production to start by December, 2022.
With six stages, Athena Studios could bring up to 900 jobs to Athensat a time, he said.
Over the years, some productions have filmed select scenes in and around Athens, leaving the bulk of the shooting for other areas, said Jeff Montgomery, Athens-Clarke County’s public information officer and government liaison for the film and TV industry. Those have included “Trouble with the Curve” with Clint Eastwood and “A Walk in the Woods” with Robert Redford.
A new studio will take the area to a whole new level, he said.
“Georgia’s production efforts are pretty amazing throughout the state, and it makes sense to have a studio here, as much as people like to film here,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity to put Athens on the map for TV and film production. We are definitely excited about it.”