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New Hub of Film and TV Production in Memphis Takes Shape

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Caleb Suggs/WKNO
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A new, mixed-use entertainment complex called MVP3 Studios is growing out of the former Malco Majestic Cinema near Winchester and Riverdale in Southeast Memphis.

Marie Pizano, Founder and CEO of MVP3 Entertainment Group, said this project was 20 years in the making and all about redefining the entertainment industry in Memphis.

“So we're all about film, music and community,” Pizano said. “We are not going to do films that will divide and separate people. We want to educate. We got to teach the city how to become an entertainment business. So there will be plenty of opportunities.”

By July 1, the 80,000-square-foot Malco Majestic Cinema building will re-open with six movie theaters, dining and event-rental space. And that’s just Phase 1. Phase 2, in the fall, will come with sound stages, music recording studios and a TV network.

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Blueprints for MVP3 Studios.

Pizano said future expansion plans for the $50 million project include a museum, a hotel and most ambitiously, an indoor amusement park.

“It's going to be like you're going to Hollywood Universal Studios, and we’ll not only be a force to be reckoned with here, but also be able to tell the Memphis indie stories,” Pizano said.

Of course, such a monumental project is likely to garner a little bit of skepticism from the public. Local filmmaker Ryan McCrory says he hopes MVP3 Studios will happen, but he’ll have to wait and see.

“I like to be optimistic about things,” McCrory said. “There's half of me that's like, ‘Oh, that would be really awesome.’ And then there's the realist part that's like, ‘Oh, I wonder if they can pull that off.”

Marty Lang is a producer, University of Memphis film professor and an expert in indie filmmaking. He says the three things needed to support a film industry in any city are an educated and trained workforce, tax incentives and a brick-and-mortar infrastructure. Memphis already has the first two.

“Anything that brings brick-and-mortar infrastructure for the film industry into an area, I think is a wonderful thing,” Lang said. “If MVP3 goes, which it looks like it's going to, that would provide that here. And that would be sort of the first official film-built studio infrastructure in town. And I think that would be a huge boost for the ability of the city to attract films, and also for local filmmakers to be able to work on bigger projects of their own.”

Lang says a community-driven studio like MVP3 would be great for Memphis not only as a resource to local creatives, but also as inspiration for the next generation.

“If you don't see it, it's hard for you to imagine yourself doing it,” Lang said. “Just the idea that there's a professional film culture here now, I think is going to be a huge benefit to the entire community because now kids that are growing up in town will be able to look to this place. And they'll be able to see there are people making a living doing this. ‘Maybe I can too.”

And creating jobs for creative people is the real promise of this new complex -- a potential Hometown Hollywood for an industry on the rise here in Memphis.