Mark Washburn

A film fantasy world beckons just beyond our dreams

Jennifer Lawrence on the set of “The Hunger Games,” filmed in 2011 in the Charlotte area when North Carolina was offering huge tax incentives to bring in projects. After the big tax breaks expired, producers went elsewhere.
Jennifer Lawrence on the set of “The Hunger Games,” filmed in 2011 in the Charlotte area when North Carolina was offering huge tax incentives to bring in projects. After the big tax breaks expired, producers went elsewhere. Lionsgate Films

Big, big, big, big.

This is going to be big. Pyramid big. Ocean big. Donald Trump big.

Bert Hesse, who was unable to get Charlotte to see the light on his fab-ab-ulous plan to plop a movie studio atop the majestic ruins of Eastland Mall, is heading to Rock Hill with his stupendous scheme.

Short-sighted Charlotte leaders didn’t appreciate his project, which would have included a 30-acre studio with eight sound stages, retail and office space, a hotel, a film school, a studio tour and hundreds of jobs. It was big, very big.

But even big, big, bigger is the idea to build the project across the South Carolina border on the Catawba Indian Reservation in York County. You’ll get everything the cinema kingdom at Eastland was offering and a Catawba Cultural Center too.

This is not only a huge opportunity for the Catawba tribe and the state of South Carolina, but a potentially transformative windfall for North America, human civilization and the Milky Way galaxy.

Because it’s big.

As every visionary knows, anything this big comes with a few wee problems. You may be wondering, for instance, where the money is going to come from.

This is something that Negative Nellies bring up every time something miraculous is about to drop into their laps. This is the kind of thinking that cost Charlotte the title of Hollywood of the East.

City leaders thought the financing of the deal was a bit vaporous, which just wasn’t true. It was merely invisible, which Hollywood people understand isn’t at all the same thing.

You see, the Eastland complex was estimated at $250 million and the York project is estimated at $350 million. So it’s already made $100 million in invisible money, which ain’t peanuts.

Already millions of dollars are straining against the walls of treasury vaults to get in on the action. Since the Catawba tribe would be involved, the project would qualify for gondolas of federal grants, which as everyone knows, is free money.

Plus, York County has barrels of cash sitting around from its hospitality tax that would be perfect for such a massive tourism magnet.

You may wonder why movie-makers will be so eager to bring their projects to York County when there are already excellent movie studios in California, Wilmington and a dozen other states.

Because it’s going to be big, that’s why. Big, big, big. Hollywood likes it big, and once the vast complex is a-sparkle on the red-clay plains of the Indian reservation, producers will be falling over one another to get there.

South Carolina lawmakers will doubtless ensure the thunderous success of this astonishing project by larding giant tax breaks to the film industry like some other states. Those other states are keenly aware of the glorious benefits that this single amazing industry brings.

They recognize it’s just magical the way movie people make fantasies come true. You just wait and see.

This is going to be big. Very big. Rainbow big.

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