Movie studio company to build facility at Chaffee Crossing

by Tina Alvey Dale ([email protected]) 6,323 views 

Rendering of planned entrance to Spark Studios at Chaffee Crossing.

The Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority Board of Directors agreed to a sale that will bring a Los Angeles-based film and television studio to Chaffee Crossing to support the movie industry in Arkansas and Oklahoma.

The board approved the sale of 18.55 acres bordered by Wintergreen and Mahogany avenue in the southeast corner of Chaffee Crossing to TGE Global Entertainment, Inc. for $899,000. The $30 million project will primarily consist of new construction. TGE plans to build a 92,000-square-foot facility with 45,000-square-feet of film and television studio space. Plans call for the space to be called TGE Spark Studios, said J. Michael Smith, TGE chief financial officer.

“It’s our homage to a famous banker who built the New Theatre in downtown Fort Smith,” Smith said. “We want to follow in the footsteps of this giant who once also believed in Fort Smith as an entertainment hub for the region.”

The Los Angeles-based entertainment company announced in November it has a film about legendary Deputy U.S. Marshal Bass Reeves under development as an authentic western with intentions to film most of it in the Fort Smith area, a news release said.

“A film studio is a wonderful trigger to develop a creative ecosystem in our region. The name Spark Studio encapsulates the energy and even greater momentum we anticipate following this announcement,” said FCRA CEO Daniel Mann.

The proposed facility would be the only one of its kind in a 550-mile radius with the closest being in New Orleans, Smith said. He said it could create an estimated $32 million annual economic impact on the Fort Smith community.

“The numbers are purposefully conservative as we are awaiting final projections, but that’s the
preliminary estimate we’ve been operating from,” Smith said. “The economic purpose for a studio like Spark Studios is not just to house our projects, but projects from other production companies with a desire to film in Arkansas. And obviously we believe there are plenty of reasons to film in the Arkansas and Oklahoma region.”

Brandon Chase Goldsmith, president of the River Valley Film Society, said the studio’s economic impact on not only the area’s creative industry but also the manufacturing industry will be “incalculable.” The filmmaking studio is expected to create 100 to 150 direct jobs, according to TGE. But film production will bring with it more job opportunities.

“Production crews that are involved with filmmaking have as much impact on tourism as they do on job creation,” Smith said. “When films come into a community to bring productions, the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) estimates the production will spend an average of $250,000 a day, paying 53% higher wages than the national average. They buy all kinds of materials to build sets and hire people to procure and assemble the materials. They hire makeup artists. They hire hairdressers. They hire stylists, construction workers, electricians – to the tune of over 100 people a day – and use local caterers to feed the entire crew.”

Feature-length productions often have 200 to 250 people on set, many of them requiring local housing or long-term hotel rooms.

“Advance production crews arrive from a few weeks to several months before a production starts to shoot,” Smith added.

Conceptual designs for the facility, led by Nate Deason and Galen Hunter of MAHG Architecture of Fort Smith, call for incorporating natural elements with a modern feel. There will be six sound stages, office space for film production teams, a screening room to review footage, editing suites and space for a “back lot” to have controlled outdoor filming. A cafeteria for on-site productions will be supplied by local catering companies. An amphitheater and event space are also part of the conceptual plans to provide an additional option for public gatherings in the Fort Smith area, the news release said.

While most of the facility will be new construction, plans also call for restoration of four former Fort Chaffee officer’s quarters off Liberty Street to add 8,000-square-feet of film production offices on Mahogany Avenue, northwest from the production studio.

“Our intent is to preserve the historic Chaffee look using white siding with green rooflines. Additionally, we intend to name each building after officers of historical relevance who were stationed at Chaffee to bring some of that great history into our little corner of the development,” Smith said.