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Star-Bulletin Features


Thursday, May 2, 2002


art
STARBULLETIN / 1997
Scenes from "George of the Jungle" were shot on the North Shore and at the Hawaii Film Studio.




Film honchos await
studio green light

Films made at the studio


By Tim Ryan
tryan@starbulletin.com

Hawaii film commissioners and Hollywood producers are keeping their fingers crossed this week as Gov. Ben Cayetano decides whether to approve the state budget that includes $7.3 million for a new state-of-the-art sound stage and other much needed improvements at the Hawaii Film Studio at Diamond Head.

The Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism requested $9.5 million last September to complete Phase II of the master plan that began a decade ago with construction of the "Stage II" 16,500 square-foot soundstage and adjoining parking lot.

Legislators cut the funding by about 25 percent, or $2.2 million, eliminating for now construction of new production offices. The $7.3 million approved will allow for construction of a mill/set dressing facility ($1.4 million); the demolition of the existing dilapidated "Hawaii Five-0" mill/set dressing structure ($114,000); and the construction of the second soundstage ($5.7 million).

Most recently, Universal's "Surf Girls" and Revolution Studio's Bruce Willis film has used the "Five-0" stage to build sets.

If the budget is approved, Hawaii Film Office and DEBDT officials intend to meet immediately with the state's Department of Accounting and General Services, which oversees construction, to "map out" the project, said Donne Dawson, Hawaii Film Office manager.

Following months of the design process, negotiating fees, writing contract details, adjusting land issues, meeting with neighborhood boards, and preparing preliminary construction plans, the 15 months of construction could begin as soon as September 2003 and be completed in mid-2005.

THE HAWAII FILM STUDIO was built in 1976 for "Hawaii Five-0" on a section of Kapiolani Community College property, with rental fees paid to the University of Hawaii. The state appropriated $10 million in 1986 and 1987 to construct a new soundstage. The land was transferred from UH to the Department of Business, Economic Development, Tourism in 1989 when the state Hawaii Film Office began managing the facility.

Since "Hawaii Five-0" began filming at the site in 1978, production expenditures in Hawaii for for film and television projects that used the studio grew to about $470 million. Of that figure, $173 million was spent by productions using the new sound stage.

The state will continue to confer with film and television production experts about specific needs for the new sound stage.

The new facility will be called Stage I since that was the designation on the master plan, Dawson said. Stage II was built first, in part, because it was on the edge of the property and less expensive.

The second sound stage is an "invaluable tool" in attracting film and television productions, Dawson said. "It's a great incentive for the entertainment industry to come to Hawaii to work," she said.

Having only one sound stage has caused initial problems with attracting some productions when the single stage was in use, Dawson said, although she added, "We've never lost a production because we've worked hard to locate other spaces like warehouses for filming or partnering with a hotel for a production office."

Square USA, which produced "Final Fantasy" here and a portion of the sequel to the "Matrix," rented Stage II for about four years, virtually locking out other productions. However, the state reaped steady monthly income from the production company.

DBEDT deputy director Sharon Narimatsu praised legislators for stepping forward and recognizing "the need for solid infrastructure investment to grow Hawaii's film and television industry."

Legislators were lobbied heavily in letters and public testimony by the local Screen Actors Guild, International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), Teamsters, and others to approve the funding, Narimatsu fund.

DBEDT plans next year to ask the legislature for the remaining $2.2 million to built the new construction offices, Narimatsu said.

"We're very excited," she said. "This is long overdue."

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Studio action

Here are some of the series and feature films that have been produced at the Hawaii Film Studio:

>> "Hawaii Five-0," 1976-80
>> "Magnum, P.I.," 1980-88
>> "Jake & the Fatman," 1989-90
>> "Raven," 1992-93
>> "The Byrds of Paradise," 1993-94
>> "One West Waikiki," 1994-95
>> "A Very Brady Sequel," 1996
>> "George of the Jungle," 1997
>> "Mighty Joe Young," 1997
>> "Final Fantasy," 1997-01
>> "Moonglow," 1998
>> "Too Rich: The Secret Life of Doris Duke," 1998
>> "Baywatch Hawaii," 1999-01
>> "Surf Girls," 2002



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