Starlight movie studio opens in New Orleans East

September 13, 2017

Doug MacCash,

The new Starlight Studios, a $12.5 million motion picture studio, opened near NASA's Michoud facility in New Orleans East on June 19 (Monday). With a cavernous 45-foot tall, 32,000-square foot sound stage, plus a second 13,000- square-foot sound stage next door, the facility is the biggest in New Orleans, said Starlight Studios President Billy Burk. 

As he surveyed the interior of the four-story black box interior of sound stage 1, Burk said that unlike competing New Orleans studios, Starlight is not a converted warehouse or other pre-used structure. It was built from the ground up to accommodate movie and television production, with no supporting columns or other obstructions inside the gigantic spaces. Burk proudly pointed out that the spare hanger-like Starlight buildings also have sound insulation, air conditioning, and electrical supply tailor-made for cinema or television. 

Burk, a real estate developer, said that the studio complex will provide 200 jobs in the New Orleans area. Considering the income creation, the New Orleans Industrial Development Board, a city agency, rewarded Burk and the other private investors in the Starlight project with a property tax benefit in 2013. 

The studio, which Burk said was first conceived in 2012, has dodged two potential disasters. In 2015 a tightening of the tax incentive program that attracts movie makers to Louisiana, sent producers looking for greener pastures elsewhere. 

"The legislation in 2015 provided some uncertainty in the industry that certainly affected us," Burke said. 

The deal will continue a $180 million limit on the amount that taxpayers will spend each year on the tax credits doled out to film and TV productions.

"We are very pleased to have the stability, and the assurance, and the certainty that we need as an industry to move forward in the state of Louisiana," Burk said. 

A more violent threat to the studios came on Feb. 7 when a tornado touched down within sight of Starlight Studios, but luckily left the facility intact. 

The Starlight campus includes 14,000 in office space. If all goes as planned, the scope of the Starlight Studios facility will double over the next two years or so. Burk plans to invest another $12.5 million in the project. 

Taking a cue from the 1989 film "Field of Dreams," the question is, of course, if Burk builds it; will they come? According to Starlight Studio chief operating officer Kevin Murphy, the huge sound stage 1 has already has "a tenant that has leased us through the end of the year." 

Murphy said it's not a question of "if they will come"; he said "they've already arrived."

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