Mesa approves plans for movie production studio

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MESA – The city of Mesa has given the green light to a developer to build a massive movie studio complex in the far East Valley. But it's not a done deal yet.

Movie makers come to Arizona because it's a cheaper version of Hollywood, and that's a major driving force behind the plans to build a movie studio in Mesa.

An independent movie crew is shooting a paranormal thriller in Tempe. Its star, Corbin Bernsen, says he's partial to these independent movies.

"You get into the Hollywood system, and unless you're Quentin Tarantino and you have so much control, you just get involved in the corporate world,” he said.

But independent movie producers all face the same challenge.

“Money is probably the biggest challenge to go along with it,” said producer Lenny Rethaber.

The cost to make movies can be cut by shooting in Arizona instead of California. And soon Arizona could have its own major studio lot in what is now a cotton field near the Mesa Gateway Airport. The city approved plans to turn it into a sprawling movie lot, complete with four sound stages to film movies, TV shows and commercials.

Developers will tout our proximity to California, year-round good weather and low labor costs to bring more movies here. But producers say the key to turning these plans into reality is the tax breaks the state gives to movie makers.

“New Mexico is a real big leader on it – Arizona is working that way, too – tax credits bring people to town,” Rethaber said.

Arizona's tax credit expires next year. Movie producers say extending it is crucial to bring the planned Mesa Gateway Studios to life.

The state film commission said they’re working to convince state lawmakers to extend the tax credit, but with the current budget crisis that may not be easy.