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Why Atlanta is the Hollywood of the South

Tuesday, January 30, 2018
Filming with professional camera

The hit Netflix series, “Stranger Things.” The blockbuster franchise, “ The Hunger Games.” The trend-making TV phenom, “The Walking Dead.” And the moneymaking media juggernaut, the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

These epitomize the exciting, new productions coming out of Hollywood – except for the fact that each of these hits are actually produced in Atlanta, Georgia, some 2,000 miles away.

In 2008, Georgia began wooing the filmmaking industry by offering attractive tax incentives – a 20% tax credit for projects with at least a $500,000 budget, or 30% if the production agrees to flash the state logo at the end of the credits. Studios were quick to notice and embrace the opportunity, with the state capital of Atlanta enjoying the economic windfall provided by the relocation of these productions.

Hometown Appeal

Tax incentives may have turned the heads of the major production outfits, but Georgia’s idyllic charms make it a terrific location for many shows.

The geography and milieus are diverse – from tree-lined suburban neighborhoods to impressive cityscapes, sparkling coastlines to sprawling farmlands. Georgia can offer any type of locale to suit any script or project. In the climactic scene of “X-Men: First Class,” what was supposedly a Cuban beach was actually filmed on Jekyll Island, located just off the state coast.

The climate is just as cooperative – the summers may be hot but the winters are mild – allowing productions to carry on all year round. The 2016 comedy “Office Christmas Party,” for example, is set in wintry Chicago but was shot in Atlanta in the middle of the summer.

In fact, Metro Atlanta offers the big-city appeal that Hollywood’s major players need and look for. It also helps that the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is close by – and offers nearly 40 direct flights to Los Angeles, California. That kind of access sealed the deal for the city to become the latest filmmaking hub in America.

Make-Believe Worlds in Real Life

In 2013, Atlanta established the Office of Entertainment to help organize filming efforts and minimize disruption for the residents. The agency has allowed “Furious 7” to shoot the franchise’s trademark speed thrills – flaming ambulances included – on Spring Street in the heart of Midtown, the second largest business district in Atlanta.

Today, Zone 5, the Midtown and Downtown sections of the city, is where 75% of all filming activity takes place. It has turned several Atlanta landmarks into iconic set pieces in popular cultures, like these examples:

  • Freedom Parkway – In the pilot episode of “The Walking Dead,” the character Rick Grimes rides his horse on a desolate stretch of this highway
  • The State Capitol – Appears as one of its set locations of the historic drama “Selma”
  • The Historic Swan House – Seen in “The Hunger Games” and the sequel “Catching Fire,” this heritage site is best known as the home of the fictional President Snow
  • Druid Hills – This quiet neighborhood has been used for years as the location for film and TV productions, dating back to 1989’s Oscar-winning “Driving Miss Daisy.”

Metro Atlanta is also now home to 12 production studios, giving filmmakers more options to develop their projects. Pinewood Studios in Fayetteville, just 22 miles south of Atlanta, debuted its operations with Marvel Studios’ “Ant-Man.” In March 2017, it also announced that it is currently housing the largest film production ever, with a budget set at a whopping $1 billion.

A Booming Industry

Georgia’s film industry is now the third largest in the US, next only to California and New York. In 2016, it made $7 billion – a far cry from the $244 million the local film industry earned just nine years ago.

Lee Thomas, deputy director of the Georgia Film Commission, says that about 25,000 Georgians work in the industry, with another 30,000 in indirectly related jobs.

To get a better glimpse of what it’s like to live in Atlanta, inquire about housing options from Natalie Gregory SOLD at 404-373-0076. You can also send an email to Natalie(dotted)Gregory(at)Compass(dotted)com for more information.