Louisiana Made the Perfect Pitch
The Pitch Perfect franchise has been a big win for the state.
As I got off the phone with Scott Niemeyer, a partner with Gold Circle Entertainment, he was heading out to meet with a Chinese investor for his latest venture — Deep South Studios, a proposed $63.5 million movie studio complex set on 35 acres in Algiers. Niemeyer says the estimated $3.1 million in tax breaks approved for the project in January have really spurred him on.
“We’ve cleared the first 17 or 18 acres, and the capital raise is underway,” he says of what has been called one of the biggest investments in the local film industry to date. “We’re going to create the largest digital media and studio back lot in the area. I hope to be up and running in about 18 to 24 months.
In the meantime, Niemeyer’s other venture, Gold Circle Entertainment, has been busy making millions. Its latest hit, “Pitch Perfect 2”, opened May 15. Within days, it earned the crown of biggest movie-musical opening in history, surpassing the original title’s numbers ($115.4 million) in only five days. Worldwide sales as of mid-June have reached over $250 million.
But Gold Circle isn’t the only one making millions off the “Pitch Perfect” duet. Thanks to a big push by Niemeyer, a native New Orleanian, both films were shot entirely in Baton Rouge, including locations at Louisiana State University, the Baton Rouge River Center, Baton Rouge Community College, Old Louisiana Governor’s Mansion, Baton Rouge Magnet School and Southern University.
In total, both productions spent a combined $40 million in the state while filming, employed almost 800 resident workers and purchased over 7,000 nights at hotel rooms.
“That $40-plus million, that was spent over months, not years,” Niemeyer says. “The state saw an immediate economic boost.”
Niemeyer says the decision to film “Pitch Perfect” in southeast Louisiana was mostly selfish. “I’m from here, so of course I was looking for a good chance to come home,” he says, adding that the movie was not the first Gold Circle title to film in Louisiana.
“That was ‘The Badge,’ a film we did with Billy Bob Thornton and Patricia Arquette in 2002,” he says. “Then there was ‘Sunny,’ Nick Cage’s directorial debut, and ‘Haunting in Georgia’ in 2010.”
Returning to Louisiana for the second “Pitch Perfect” production, Niemeyer says, was an easy decision. “We didn’t want to have to reinvent things,” he says. “We wanted to come back to return to the same locations for the second film, and they welcomed us back. The hospitality of southeast Louisiana and the state in general is always a motivator. The charm and welcoming demeanor here can catch people off-guard sometimes, I think — in a positive way, of course.”
And then of course there are the incentives, which, not surprisingly, Niemeyer favors, adding that he personally has been active at the state level to help preserve them.
“Cash on cash, the return is what it is,” he says. But while the economic benefit analysis is a bit more theoretical, the theory has suggested year over year, that the multiplier is at least five times the stated expenditures.”
Not only has the film industry been an economic engine for the state, Niemeyer says the nature of the business makes it a perfect fit. “It’s a green industry that also fits squarely within the cultural landscape of the state — one that is both creative and happens to have a unique history that’s really embraced arts and culture…I can tell you, people are really aware of the state as a worldwide entertainment brand. Look at the visibility and recognition we’ve received — in terms of Louisiana locations, characters and stories.”
So, can Louisiana expect a “Pitch Perfect 3”?
“I wouldn’t doubt it,” he laughs. “I definitely wouldn’t bet against it.”
Kimberley Singletary is the managing editor of Biz New Orleans magazine. A 20-year Southern California veteran, she has been surrounded by the film industry for most of her life and is thrilled to be covering its emersion in her newly adopted home.