Friday, December 24, 2010
Marvel To Film 'Avengers' in N.M.
By Adrian Gomez
Journal Staff Writer
The announcement that "The Avengers" will film in New Mexico has more than comic book fans rejoicing.
The film, which is the biggest to be shot in the state, will also snatch up all the available space at Albuquerque Studios.
Wayne Rauschenberger, chief operating officer of the studios, said the announcement is thrilling.
"We will be at capacity for the majority of the year," he said. "Every available space will be rented."
Marvel Studios will occupy the majority of the eight-stage business from April through September.
Eric Witt, deputy chief of staff for Gov. Bill Richardson, said the movie deal had been in the works for quite some time.
He said he and Lisa Strout, director of the New Mexico Film Office, took a couple of trips to Los Angeles to meet with Marvel executives.
"We pitched to them on why New Mexico would be the place to film," he said. "We don't offer the highest incentive deal, but ultimately they saw us as the best."
The state's film incentive program offers a 25 percent tax rebate on all direct production and postproduction expenditures, including New Mexico crew, that are subject to taxation by the state.
The film incentive program has been at the core of a heated debate for the past couple of years. One study by the Arrowhead Center at New Mexico State University said the state earns 14 cents on the dollar. But, that study was attacked at the Legislature as being too narrow. So, the state sponsored its own study of the film incentive program, done by Ernst and Young. That study said the state does, indeed, make money, $1.50 for every $1 spent. But then it got hammered by some legislators for being too broad.
Witt said Marvel shot parts of "Thor" in the state and was impressed with the professional crew.
"We talked about the crew, and it became an advantage for us," he said. "They were looking at other places with better incentives, but what turned the tide with them is we have the best crew and we're close to L.A. in case they need to fly out here."
Witt said the production will have the biggest budget, be the most technologically ambitious film and have the biggest sets built in the state.
"It's also going to be the longest production we've had," he said. "After it's all done, Marvel will have been in the state for over a year, counting preproduction."
Witt said having Marvel occupy Albuquerque Studios is a great thing for the company.
"With all they've been through in the past year, it's a great thing to be at full capacity," he said. "There is going to be a lot of large-scale and technically complex building at the studios in the coming year."
In July, Pacifica Ventures, which owns and operates Albuquerque Studios, filed for bankruptcy protection. It has since received an infusion of cash and was granted a temporary restraining order that prevents foreclosure of the company and has undergone new management.
The bankruptcy filing was initiated after Pacifica defaulted on a $23 million loan from Workers Realty Trust last year. The trust scheduled a foreclosure auction, which would have brought about new owners of the studios in Mesa del Sol, where films like "Terminator Salvation" and "The Book of Eli" were made.
While the majority of the shooting for "The Avengers" will be done at the studios, Witt said producers have been scouting locations. Some parts of the film will also be filmed in New York and Michigan.
"Albuquerque will be the home base for the production," he said. "But there will also be other areas around New Mexico used in the movie."
Witt said "The Avengers" filming in the state was due to all the pieces falling into place. He said for the past eight years, the state has worked hard at getting crew trained for movies.
"It's not an overnight success," he said. "There's been a lot of hard work, and it's starting to pay off. We have a professional and trained crew that can handle the movie business."
Marvel Studios declined to comment on a budget due to the movie being in preproduction and no budget has been set.
"We are incredibly excited to be returning to New Mexico with 'The Avengers,' " said Louis D'Esposito, co-president of Marvel Studios. "We had a terrific experience shooting portions of 'Thor' in the Land of Enchantment, and we are looking forward to making New Mexico even more of a home on our next production. 'The Avengers' is our biggest film to date, and New Mexico is the right place for us to shoot the film."
Carrie Wells, the city's assistant film liaison, said having a production like "The Avengers" puts Albuquerque at the forefront of moviemaking.
"We're thrilled that they are here," she said. "It's a wonderful thing for the city, and it's going to put a lot of New Mexicans to work."
Witt said that while the number of crew members who will be hired isn't known yet, he did offer that smaller productions have employed more than 100 New Mexicans and expects that number to be significantly higher. He added there are more than 3,000 trained crew members in the state. The number almost a decade ago was 100.
Mayor Richard Berry also lauded the production coming to the Duke City.
"We welcome 'The Avengers' to Albuquerque and look forward to hosting Marvel Studios over the coming year," he said. "Clearly, Albuquerque remains a premier city in the U.S. for production."
Witt said having a highly anticipated film like "The Avengers" in New Mexico gives the state a chance to highlight the industry.
"Our incentives aren't the most generous anymore and other states have us beat," he said. "But it comes down to our infrastructure, which is really strong."