Business

Viacom moves into new film studio in downtown Miami

The exterior of the new Viacom International Studios facility at 50 NW 14th St. in Miami.
The exterior of the new Viacom International Studios facility at 50 NW 14th St. in Miami. EUE/SCREEN GEMS

Viacom International Studios, which produces shows for Nickelodeon, MTV and Comedy Central worldwide, has set up shop in downtown Miami.

The company will move into the 88,000 square-foot facility at 50 NW 14th Street, which was unveiled Monday by the Omni Community Redevelopment Agency. Built at a cost of just over $14.5 million, the structure features two high-tech 15,000 square-foot sound stages with 40-foot ceilings, along with ample office space and post-production, dressing, wardrobe and conference rooms.

The building is the result of a public-private partnership between the redevelopment agency and EUE/Screen Gems Studios, a film and television studio company that operates 22 studios over 85 acres in New York, Georgia and North Carolina. Construction on the facility began last year. Viacom signed on to a three-year commitment on Aug. 5, the company said Monday.

“We’ve been building up so much volume of production in Miami, it was difficult to sustain it with third parties,” says Pierluigi Gazzolo, president of Viacom International Media Networks Americas and executive vice-president of Nickelodeon International. Previously, Viacom had been leasing various studio spaces and crews in Miami to produce shows such as Every Witch Way, the Nickelodeon teen sitcom about an adolescent witch currently in its fourth season, and its spin-off WITS Academy, which premiered on Nickelodeon Oct. 5.

Gazzolo says Viacom will have 24 full-time employees working at the location, and will hire “hundreds” of crew members technicians and on-camera talent on a show-per-show basis.

“When we heard that EUE was doing their studio here, we jumped at the opportunity,” Gazzolo says. “Having one studio located five minutes from the airport and five minutes from the beach makes our job much easier, particularly if you’re trying to produce different series at the same time.”

EUE/Screen Gems, which will supervise the day-to-day operations and ensure the facility is operational, will lease the building from the Omni redevelopment agency for 10 years at annual rent of $100,000, plus 11 percent of gross revenues.

Chris Cooney, the COO of EUE, says the dollar amount of the deal with Viacom was “proprietary.”

“We had worked with [Viacom] in Atlanta for five years, and we understand the needs of a producer,” says Cooney, who negotiated the deal with Viacom. EUE will provide all the hardware – cameras, lighting, electrical equipment – and serve as the liaison between the redevelopment agency and Viacom. “We have the best service in the business – that’s our hallmark – and I’m very proud of this partnership, because it was not easy to accomplish.”

Pieter A. Bockweg, executive director of the redevelopment agency, says the studio will have a dramatic fiscal impact on the Omni area in terms of economic development, creating “thousands” of direct and indirect jobs.

“From our perspective, the return-on-investment won’t be just dollar-for-dollar,” Bockweg says. “You will be able to see a big economic impact on the community, and Miami-Dade, very quickly once production starts. The impact will be instantaneous.”

Viacom International Studios, which will keep its long-time South Florida corporate headquarters at 1111 Lincoln Rd., plans to move into its new digs in early November. The company currently employs 150 people in South Florida. Production on shows will start in January – the same month the Florida Legislature will revisit the state’s depleted film and entertainment tax incentive programs designed to lure out-of-town productions to shoot here.

Speaking at a Monday press conference at which the studio was unveiled, Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado expressed hope that a new Florida tax-incentive program would be put into place “so we can be the Hollywood of the South.”

In an interview afterward, Carlos Lopez-Cantera, lieutenant governor of Florida, admitted the future of the state’s tax-incentive program was unclear. “We need to make sure that whatever product the Legislature comes up with has a demonstrable return on investment for the taxpayers of Florida,” he says. “We need to be able to quantify a return on those tax dollars via jobs and capital investment.”

But Cooney says that while tax incentives are important, they are not driving the new deal with Viacom.

“This is about keeping an indigenous producer who could have gone anywhere here,” he says. “That’s a testament to the strength of South Florida as a place to do great work.”

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