It was all about jobs. And if the media and people assembled for the Cinespace ribbon-cutting and press conference Tuesday didn’t get it the first time, Gov. Pat Quinn made sure they did by repeating, “It’s all about the jobs, the jobs, the J-O-B-S” when questioned about the value of the Toronto-owned studio to Chicago.
Jobs, indeed, were at the heart of the $5 million Illinois Jobs Now! Capital program grant to Cinespace, of which $3 million was reportedly given to the studio prior to Tuesday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony helmed by Gov. Quinn.
The ceremonial event was also the occasion for the Illinois Film Office to announce a record $161 million in revenues from 2010 film production here, resulting in more than 8,000 hires on movie and TV projects.
The question of exactly how many jobs would be created, however, was sidestepped by Cinespace owner Nick Mirkopoulos, a nice-looking gentleman with an Ari Onassis tan in an off-white jacket, which contrasted with the formal dark blue suits and white shirts of a large cadre of Teamsters in attendance.
Mirkopoulos said he hopes the studio can generate thousands of jobs here. Whether those are the same 6,000 jobs over five years the grant proposal said would be created, or many thousands more wasn’t clarified.
Thousands of local jobs over a period of time are a genuine possibility if the Chicago studio succeeds on the large scale it envisions.
Mirkopoulos’ five family-owned Toronto studios of 23 years are certainly well-known and respected in Los Angeles, having been the studio for more than 1,000 film projects. Hopefully, this magic will rub off on Chicago Cinespace, which is complemented by Chicago’s highly respected labor and talent pools and sturdy infrastructure, and attract a steady flow of film projects.
Cinespace Chicago officially opened to a good start with Starz/Lionsgate 8-episode “Boss” series headquartering and shooting there. The series stars Kelsey Grammer, who plays a Machiavellian Chicago mayor hiding a serious secret.
Quinn mentioned “TV series” a number of times during his 20-minute television appearance. He seems to consider them the future of the local industry, as that is mainly the direction the IFO has taken in its sales calls on Hollywood production executives.
Everyone is optimistic that “The Chicago Code” will be renewed for another season by Fox, although the odds are 50-50 right now, and if the recently wrapped “Playboy” pilot is greenlit as a series it will film here, too.
Chicago’s film labor was strongly represented
Surrounding Quinn for the cameras were Grammer, in makeup and shirtsleeves from the set, the formidable Teamsters leader John Coli, Sr., Local 476’s Mark Hogan, DGA’s Dan Moore, AFTA/SAG/s Eileen Willenborg and other film labor representatives.
Former 28th Ward Alderman Ed Smith and his successor, Ald. Jason Ervin, were among the officials gathered around the governor. Smith said the new movie studio would be a great boon to the ward, providing “thousands of new jobs,” along with those expected from a new development of 131 houses and a new hospital being built in the Near West Side.
The press conference following the ceremonial ribbon-cutting outside on the warm, sunlit afternoon, was held on the fifth floor of the 355,000-sq. stage area that was bustling with more than 100 construction workers.
The fifth floor is one of the “Boss” sets: a large former Ryerson office was converted into “Mayor Kane’s” stately City Hall office, where Grammer was filming a tense scene.
“Boss” director and executive producer Gus Van Zant – making his debut as a TV director — was on the set, but couldn’t take time out to join the festivities.
Last month, Mirkopoulos paid $20 million for the first phase of the eventual $80 million total acquisition of the eight other former Ryerson buildings that will create the largest sound studio complex outside of Hollywood.