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Cinespace Chicago Arrives to the Midwest

December 19, 2011 | By | 4 Comments

Update: Chicago DIY Film Magazine recently contacted Cinespace Chicago, inquiring about the job opportunities available through the organization. According to our contact at Cinespace, owner Nick Mirkopoulos has plans to launch a job opportunities page in 2012.

This article was originally published June 29, 2011.

Emily Morris

Chicago has played a character in a host of major Hollywood movies and TV shows, but in the past five years the Windy City has seen an especially exciting time for production. Shots of Batman racing through Lower Wacker Drive in “The Dark Knight” and buildings exploding over the Chicago River in “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” are likely to cement themselves in moviegoers’ minds as classic Chicago moments. One film guru with his eye on the city’s blockbuster potential is Nick Mirkopoulos, owner of the Toronto-headquartered studio Cinespace.

Now, his nearly 50-acre Cinespace Chicago has rolled into the Midwest to become the biggest U.S. studio outside of Hollywood. With it come thousands of new jobs — at least that’s what Mirkopoulos hopes. Government officials seem to hope so too, as the state of Illinois is subsidizing the studio to the tune of $5 million dollars (which come from the state’s Illinois Jobs Now! program).

An offshoot of the Toronto based Cinespace Studios, the Chicago version has already begun production on the TV show “Boss,” starring Kelsey Grammer at the site of the old Ryerson Steel Property, located on the West side of the city at 2558 W. 16th St. Grammer attended the studio’s unveiling in mid-May with Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn. Cinespace Chicago spokesperson Karen Banks also reports that one of the latest NBC shows, “The Playboy Club” is coming to film in the next few weeks.

Early in 2009, Mirkopoulos’s grant proposal estimated that the studio would bring 6,000 jobs to Chicago. The studio owner has since stayed mum on how many jobs the studio has created so far or the estimation for its job growth in the next few years. The large studio’s construction needs have already provided at least some temporary employment to workers building the mammoth site.

"The Dark Knight," Warner Bros. Pictures

The studio’s move to the Windy City is partly spurred by the states’ 30 percent tax credit for those who film in Chicago (though the credit only applies to Illinois residents). The credit helped center production for big-budget projects such as “Transformers 3,” “The Dilemma,” “The Chicago Code” and “Contagion” in the city last year.  The Illinois Film Office reports that the tax credit has helped bring in half a billion dollars in revenue to the state.

But recently, the state senate passed a bill which would put a 10-year sunset clause (essentially an expiration date) on the Illinois film tax credit, and could have Chicago film studios yelling “cut!” in a decade if the credit is not renewed.

"Boss," distributed by Starz Entertainment

Betsy Steinberg, managing director at the Illinois Film Office, said the sunset clause won’t stop Chicago from staying on the movie map.

“I think that it won’t actually end up having much of an effect at all because we will if we need to get it renewed we won’t have a problem doing so,” Steinberg said.  “The program is so successful that if and when we need to get it renewed I’m confident we’ll have the data to back it up.”

Interestingly, Chicago Studio City, a similarly-sized film studio, never received this kind of money from Illinois government. The studio once boasted being the largest film studio between the two coasts, and hosted filming for recently-cancelled “The Chicago Code.”

“It’s our hope and our belief that with its added amount of sound stage space we’ll continue to attract more projects which will translate into more jobs,” Steinberg said about Cinespace Chicago.

While the studio expects to attract major films, Banks maintains Cinespace Chicago is open to indie filmmakers. She said rates to rent space and equipment at the studio are on an individual basis and depend on the amount of space the filmmaker needs. But it’s likely that this studio will continue to promote the big-name projects that the state believes will bring jobs to the city. As for how many jobs that will be, and how stable the employment actually is, it seems both the studio and the state aren’t so certain.

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Comments (4)

  1. B Paw

    As a 15 year veteran of the Chicago film industry. I can tell you that any jobs created by this tax incentive are for Mid and entry level positions. And these jobs are all temporary in nature. The real good jobs are all given to people from California. This happens all the time even though Chicago has a very talented crew based right here in the state. My fear is that the state of IL is just handing these billion dollar studios millions of dollars for jobs that only last a few months at a time.

  2. kim ono

    Where are the jobs? Neither the Cinespace Chicago nor the parent site (Toronto) site have any links to job opportunities. Both the Chicago Film Office and Illinois Film Office sites have has little to no job info – yet several movies have been filmed in Chicago and other areas in Illinois (Man of Steel/Superman aka Autumn Frost, “Heartland” aka unnamed something or other project) with no mention on the state/city sites.
    What’s the deal?

  3. kim ono

    Adding to that — is that Cinespace logo made from 80′s clip art? Surely such a large company could come up with some better graphic design? Hopefully the homespun logo is not indicative of the quality of their studios.

  4. admin

    Kim Ono – that’s such a great question we should really make a post about it. Where are the job postings? I remember, 10 years ago, I had friends in the P.A. circuit, and as crappy as those jobs were, I just couldn’t break in.

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