Motown Magic

A new $40-million film studio in southwest Detroit joins several other production centers planned in Michigan
The site plan for 23rd Street Studios in southwest Detroit includes the addition of four 18,000-square-foot sound stages, each equipped with a 40-foot-high ceiling, as well as sound and lighting equipment. A fifth sound stage, offering 25,000 square feet of space, will be created from an existing structure (a former auto supplier, Detroit Electro Coating and Stamping, began operations on the site in the 1890s). In addition, 200,000 square feet of renovated warehouse space is now available, which is equipped with eight overhead cranes. New and renovated offices will be created, as well as an education center, backlot, and outdoor staging. In addition, filmmakers can utilize a handful of paint booths in the complex. There are also plans for ancillary businesses, including florists, film-production suppliers, catering operations, and salons. “The busiest florist in Los Angeles is across the street from our partner, The Culver Studios,” says Christos Moisides, a partner of 23rd Street Studios. “We want to create the same economic engine in Detroit.”

After striking a partnership with The Culver Studios in Los Angeles, which produced such legendary films as Gone With the Wind, Citizen Kane, and Spellbound, Detroit producer Christos Moisides is looking to create some of Hollywood’s magic in Motown.

Over the last year, Moisides, a partner of 23rd Street Studios in Detroit, acquired and started to develop an 18-acre movie-production center on the site of a former automotive supplier in southwest Detroit at Michigan and 23rd Street.

“Because the film tax-credit legislation passed in Michigan last year includes incentives to build studio space, we’re working on a $40-million plan to create a one-stop-shop for film production,” Moisides says. Once the project is completed next year, The Culver Studios and other film companies can begin to produce films in Michigan.

The emerging production center being is used to store equipment for other filmmakers, and Moisides has already shot a handful of music videos there. Once the development budget is finalized this spring, Moisides will begin construction of four large sound stages, 60,000 square feet of office space, adapting an existing 200,000-square-foot warehouse into storage space, as well as creating outdoor areas for staging and a traditional “backlot” operation.

Other studio projects are in the works, as well. Wonderstruck Studios in Los Angeles, for example, is planning to build an $86-million computer-animation center in downtown Detroit at the former MGM Grand Detroit casino at Third and Abbott. The project will include four new sound stages and employ more than 400 people, says Michele Richards, president and CEO of Wonderstruck. “You can see the program working with the increase of filmmaking going on in the state,” she says. “We’re very excited about what’s happening in Michigan.”

Other projects include City Center Studios in Lansing, a proposed Motown Motion Picture Studios in Pontiac, and an expansion of studio space at Stardock Systems Inc. in Plymouth, which produces sophisticated video games.

“The trick to making Michigan a major film center is to keep everyone on the same page,” says Moisides, whose father-in-law is businessman Ted Gatzaros. “It takes time to develop an industry like this, especially when you consider employee training and the development of studio space. Plus, there are all the ancillary businesses that will benefit, like florists, hardware stores, salons, and restaurant catering. It all takes time.”

Other Studios

City Center Studios
Location: Lansing, MI
Size: 71,000 sq. ft.
Cost: $9 million
Opening date: End of 2009
Number of jobs created: 300
Type of studio: Production
Web site:
Phone: 877-437-8243

Detroit Center Studios (Wonderstruck Studios LLC)
Location: Detroit, MI (old MGM Grand
Detroit Casino temporary property, plus
four sound stages)
Size: 400,000 sq. ft.
Cost: $86 million
Opening Date: Begins operations this year
Number of jobs created: 413
Type of studio: Computer animation
Web site:
Phone: 310-877-7040

Motown Motion Picture Studios LLC
Location: Pontiac, MI
(former General Motors industrial site)
Size: 600,000 sq. ft
Cost: $54 million
Opening date: 2010
Number of jobs created: 3,500
Type of studio: Production
Web site:
Phone: 248-649-5555

Stardock Systems Inc.
Location: Plymouth, MI
Size: NA
Cost: $900,000
Opening Date: 2010
Number of jobs created: 50
Type of studio: Software/publisher
Web site:
Phone: 734-927-0677