Could Dome become movie studio?

April 29, 2008 4:31:04 PM PDT
The Astrodome is still waiting for a new job and a new purpose after a proposal to convert it into a huge convention hotel didn't work out. Now a new idea is being floated -- one that could bring some star power to Houston. This is only a proposal that needs both investors and approval of the county. But it could be what the lagging Texas film economy needs as movie and TV productions are being lured to other states willing to rebate huge chunks of production costs to get the business. And that's where the Dome could come in.

The Dome is so much vacant space now, but it never grows old on film. It was the setting for the movie Brewster McCloyd -- one of a long list of titles shot in Texas, from the first Academy Award winner, Wings in 1927, to this year's Academy Award winner There Will Be Blood, and so much more in between.

Some states offer incentives of 30% and 40% to lure productions away from Hollywood. Texas only offers five per cent. Houston offers a 6.5% incentive.

"If you don't have a lucrative incentive program, especially feature films, they're going to be going to places that do," said Rick Ferguson with the Houston Film Commission. "It's (a bidding war), a K-mart special."

That brings us to the Dome and a different way of seeing its value. Elise Hendrix works in the film and event industry and sees the Dome not as a stadium, but as the setting for one of the world's largest sound stages.

She suggested, "Film processing labs, ample space easily convertible, studio and office space, you have storage warehouses and duplicate locations."

The Texas Motion Picture Alliance is working on getting films back to Texas. It says the Dome idea fits into that.

"Anybody with some foresight could see the value in having the world's largest production studio," said Cynthia Neely with the Texas Motion Picture Alliance.

The Dome studio backers say they've been in contact with the county about the proposal. County judge Ed Emmett says any appropriate proposal will be considered as long as it comes with its own financing, and doesn't cost taxpayers.

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