LONDON/ATLANTA British film studio Pinewood Shepperton, home of the James Bond movies, plans to build its first movie, television and music studio in the United States, part of an international expansion strategy launched in 2009.
The owner of Europe's largest film studio, Pinewood said on Monday it would develop 288 acres of land south of Atlanta, Georgia, for a studio facility in a joint venture with River's Rock LLC, an independently managed trust of the Cathy family.
The Cathy family owns the Atlanta-based fried chicken chain Chick-fil-A. It is believed to be their first significant media investment, but no one from Chick-fil-A was available for comment.
Atlanta-area lawyer Douglas Warner, attorney for River's Rock, declined to comment.
Attracting Pinewood is the latest victory for Georgia as it builds itself into a major U.S. production destination. Figures shows that 333 productions were shot in the state last year, boosting public coffers by $3.1 billion, with recent films including "Flight", "X-Men: First Class", and "Fast Five".
Filmmaker and television producer Tyler Perry has a studio in Atlanta, and the popular zombie-themed AMC cable network series "The Walking Dead" is filmed in the southern U.S. state.
Pinewood already owns studios in Canada and Germany and is building facilities in Malaysia and the Dominican Republic. Earlier this month the studio signed a joint venture with Chinese media group Seven Stars, run by media entrepreneur Bruno Wu, to expand its production services into China.
"Georgia has excellent fiscal incentives and a great crew base," Pinewood CEO Ivan Dunleavy said in a statement. "With River's Rock we have a well-resourced partner that is committed to building a first-class studio facility."
Producers can qualify for state income tax credits of up to 30 percent for certain production expenses, according to the Georgia film office.
Under the deal, the land and studio construction costs will be funded by equity from River's Rock and a debt facility from Synovus Bank, with building to begin immediately.
Pinewood will provide the sales and marketing services and own 40 percent of the joint venture that will operate under the Pinewood trademark and be called Pinewood Atlanta.
The Pinewood studio, based outside of London, has been dubbed the home of James Bond with most of the 23 films featuring British spy 007 shot there over the past half century, including last year's box office hit "Skyfall".
Recent films shot at Pinewood include "Jack Ryan" starring Kevin Costner and Chris Pine, and Angelina Jolie's new film "Maleficent". Whether Pinewood might shoot future James Bond films in Georgia was not known.
(Reporting by Belinda Goldsmith and David Beasley; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Chris Reese)