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

Mary Crosby Hagman Preece Wilson.jpg
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Mary Crosby, Larry Hagman, former Dallas and Walker, Texas Ranger director Michael Preece and Sheree Wilson at the auction of Hagman's memorabilia in Beverly Hills last week
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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20 comments
Wylie H.
Wylie H.

Why can't Matthews reinvest part of his $15 million fee paid to him by the City for building the Convention Center Hotel?  Or part of his fee for building the boutique hotel that the Dallas Police & Fire Pension system is taking a flyer on (since speculating on Museum Tower evidently isn't quite enough concentrated risk for the pension fund)?

Ed D.
Ed D.

It's not socialism if we're redistributing the money to the very rich, right?

Jack E. Jett
Jack E. Jett

I think we could get more bang for our buck if we invest in porn. 

Cityrunamuk
Cityrunamuk

This is absolutely crazy for public tax money to go toward a project that clearly is a private sector venture.  At what point did it become the role of city government to support such a limited ROI venture for a developer - Jack Matthews.   Our city with the millions of dollars in needs - is going to ensure the private sector is going to get their profits and make millions from the series - you have got to be kidding me.  This is from the same committee (Economic Development) that supported using city sales tax increment to help Arlington with the Super Bowl, but now says it wants to support Jack in developing a "studio" for 22 episodes of Dallas (a has been show) so it won't go to Los Colinas.  And the City will get $1.1m in "fiscal impact".  What the hell is fiscal impact?   Ann Margolin, you have got to presuade your fellow council members that this project is INSANE.  It is one of Janis Burkland's crazy ideas.  Please Council vote this project down.   You have got to deal with real issues - public safety, streets, etc............not a one off project like this.     

Guest
Guest

Television productions must not spend very much locally if 22 episodes only generates $1.1 million in local economic impact (and, knowing how city staff usually calculates things, that economic impact figure is probably inflated).

Jay Hawk
Jay Hawk

So they can (maybe) scrape together $235K for this, but Lemmon Ave. still has landmine potholes and the stoplights on NW Highway flash red for days?Vote Kunkle - he's the best chance of getting this trend changed.

Howard
Howard

I grew up watching "Dallas" when it originally aired -- it was depressing to see how obvious it was in its latter seasons that it was shot (mostly in-studio) in Los Angeles. Totally fake looking as hell. (I predict Good Christian BITCHES -- they're still "bitches" in my heart -- will look just as obvious after its pilot.)

Anyway, I'm not sure why the producers of Dallas Next-Gen would even want to shoot in The Cedars should they decide to shoot in the Dallas area. The specific locales in the original series referenced the north Dallas areas and northern cities (i.e. Irving, Las Colinas, Parker county) more than downtown (which mostly appeared as establishing shots).

Also, when was the last time the Las Colinas Studios were used for any major production? (Prison Break?)

TNT would likely grant a new Dallas series 13 episodes (as per standard episode order for a non-premium cable series), not 22.

Coleman
Coleman

So were the studios in Las Colinas subsidized by their town as well? I would assume so, since there's nothing over in Las Colinas but office buildings that look like tombstones and a scientology creep center, but I'm not super sure.

Montemalone
Montemalone

Dear Dallas City Council,If you don't start paying my rent, and chipping in for electricity and groceries, and maybe car insurance, I'm moving.Signed,Greedy Taxpayer.

cynical old bastard
cynical old bastard

Whatever happened to free enterprise?  If there is the potential for so much money to be made by having this studio why can't Jack Matthews find investors or even use his own cash? Some investments don't pan out.  Why should the taxpayers of Dallas be on the hook?  If the City puts in money and the investment pays off does Jack Matthews pay back the City as an investment partner or does he say just say thank you on the way to the bank? Does Jack Matthews do any business that is not subsidized, in one way or another, by the City of Dallas and it's taxpayers?

Anonymous
Anonymous

Why is the pension system investing so much in real property within Dallas anyways? If I was a retiree I'd have started using terms like "fiduciary duty" the second the Museum Tower deal was announced.

Coleman
Coleman

Hey, it worked for the Sons of Anarchy until Tom Arnold and Henry Rollins got in the way.

Montemalone
Montemalone

The city would get better "fiscal impact" if they just laid the 235 grand on box cars on D-waynes craps table.

Scruffygeist
Scruffygeist

Seeing how it's TNT, it's probably fair to assume the typical cable series 12-14 episode season.

Brenda Marks
Brenda Marks

Jay, today at the Dallas Bar Association debate, Rawlings changed his tune and said Dallas streets were bad, specifically mentioning Lemmon Avenue.  I laughed, considering it was a complete turnaround.  But apparently the number of comments on this blog about Lemmon Avenue, Hall, Wycliff, Henderson, Inwood, etc., have caught the attention of Allyn Media.

Wylie H.
Wylie H.

... and the stoplight at Hall & Carlisle turns off completely every time there's a major rain storm--- turning the intersection into a game of vehicular Russian roulette?  (some people have started congregating near the intersection when this happens to watch the excitement....

James
James

Howard, the Studios at Las Colinas stay pretty busy... The Deep End shot there until it was cancelled by ABC and more recently Lone Star was shooting there last year until Fox cancelled it...

Brenda Marks
Brenda Marks

If the city's Economic Development department really wants to help Jack Matthews so much, why don't they find Matthews a private sector partner?  Zavitkosky is a former bank executive, and I'm betting he has a high-powered rolodex.  Using taxpaper money for such a risky, vague, nebulous, purpose during such a bad budget year is not only improper, it's clueless and tone deaf.  The council should vote no.

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