Council Told If The City Doesn't Pony Up for Studio, TNT Won't Shoot Dallas in Dallas

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Saturday morning we sneak-peeked an item that was just the subject of much debate during this morning's meeting of the council's Economic Development Committee: the fact that the city's going to sink $235,000 in Jack Matthews' Cedars TV and film production facility, in addition to the $100,000 he got last year. Ann Margolin and Linda Koop were decidedly skeptical; Tennell Atkins slightly less so as he insisted, hey, this is "how you grow revenue out of the box" and keep Hollywood from going to the Studios at Las Colinas.

Margolin wanted to know if the economic development grant is "literally funding the entire project -- we're paying for him to have a business?" To which Karl Zavitkovsky, head of the Office of Economic Development, said, simply: "Yes." To which the District 13 rep responded: "I can't support that."

But Zavitkovsky and Assistant City Manager A.C. Gonzalez explained: If the city doesn't pony up the additional quarter-mil, then TNT is likely to walk and shoot the next-gen Dallas elsewhere...if, that is, the series gets picked up. And Zavitkovsky seemed to suggest it will, for at least 13 episodes, though the network's yet to make an announcement. He said one will more than likely come in July, when council's on break, which is why the council needs to approve it on June 22.

"We need to be able to say with some certainty we'll have some facilities for them to film here," Zavitkovsky said. "That's the reason for the urgency."

Said Gonzalez, look, it's a good deal for the city: Dallas pays $235,000 for Matthews to finish out the complex, and if Dallas shoots here, the city stands to make $1.1 million in "fiscal impact" if the show gets a full 22-episode pick-up. "So," the assistant city manager said, "we've quadrupled our investment on the front end."

Which is great, Koop said, but there's no guarantee TNT will go the full 22...or 13, for that matter. Or any.

Margolin said she'd be all for it if it were a loan or if the city were "partners" with Matthews. But she doesn't like the city just giving away money.

"One could look at it that it's a contribution to see we're going to get this series into the city or not," Gonzalez said. "We don't have a space, [and] there isn't anybody providing those kinds of facilities after that series is done. That particular owner will have the building and [without another series] coming in behind them, so they're taking a risk."

He told Margolin that Matthews will need some money just to make rent, should the series come and go and leave him holding the bag. She asked: But doesn't he own the building? Gonzalez said he didn't know: "I know they're looking to acquire it..."

Zavitkovsky stopped him: Yes, the man who owns much of the land on that side of Lamar, the man who built the convention center hotel and the South Side of Lamar and the Beat condos and on and on, owns the facility.

"Here's the bottom line on this," he said. "We were willing to put this type of a subsidy to bring this particular series in town. We don't know for sure it'll be signed up for that many episodes [22], but in order to get the series in there...this is what would have to come up with, so we preferred to come up with a facility that could be reused. I agree with you. There's some awkwardness for the reason [Margolin] stated, but the benefit from this series and other series will benefit us."

Which is what Ron Natinsky and Jerry Allen said: Dallas doesn't have an adequate production facility, and rather than watch shows go to Las Colinas or elsewhere, the $235,000 is a good investment regardless of whether or not Larry Hagman, Patrick Duffy and the Ewing clan moves in over the summer.

At which point Allen moved to approve the item, which will appear on the June 22 council agenda. Margolin voted no; Koop, said outgoing chair Natinsky, cast a "maybe no."

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