Work is expected to start soon on a massive movie studio complex planned for southern Effingham County.
Jake Shapiro, CEO of Moon River Studios, told Effingham Industrial Development Authority members that progress is taking place. The company recently transferred its lease on the 1,560-acre tract off I-16 and Old River Road to FONU2.
“This was done very strategically and very successfully,” said Shapiro in a video presentation to the board. Shapiro was unable to attend Thursday night’s meeting. “As a result, we’ve gotten widespread support from our investors, both from our Medient shareholders as well as our institutional supporters. Capital has been coming into the company, so we have been able to continue the forward motion of our dream team.”
The studio has hired Choate Construction as its contractor and Hussey, Gay and Bell as its engineering firm. Foley Design Associates is designing the site plan for the studioplex.
“We are pushing very hard on the implementation of the development plan,” Shapiro said. “As we stand right now, we are looking to be in very good shape to meet all of the deadlines that we have presented previously to the IDA.”
In a filing Friday with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Moon River Studios gave notice it intends to delist and withdraw all of its outstanding common and preferred shares. Each member of the board of directors also has submitted his resignation, except for Shapiro, who will remain as CFO, CEO and secretary until the original company is delisted.
According to the SEC filing, Shapiro intends to resign from all positions and will remain as administrator to handle all monetary distributions to shareholders and wind up the company.
Steve Wohlfeil of Hussey, Gay and Bell said surveyors could be on the property next week to find the routes for the project’s water lines.
“We’re moving with great speed,” he said.
Shapiro also said a movie based on the life of Effa Manley, the Baseball Hall of Fame’s first female inductee, is gaining “a tremendous amount of momentum.” Penny Marshall, who helmed such box-office hits as “Big” and “A League of Their Own,” will direct the movie, which will be shot in the Coastal Empire.
“There will be a lot of press coming out on that in the next few weeks until we begin production,” Shapiro said.
FONU2 also announced that Marshall has become a major shareholder in the company. She was issued more than 7 million shares in exchange for her $425,000 director’s fee. FONU2 also has obtained the distribution rights to “Yellow,” the Nick Cassavetes film that has garnered critical acclaim.
“’Yellow’ has the potential to become a cult classic,” FONU2 chief executive officer Roger Miguel said in a press release. “Upon release of the movie, we expect to generate healthy profits from our distribution agreement, which can be reinvested in other projects.”
Miguel said release dates for “Yellow” are expected to be announced in the near future. Shapiro called the release of “Yellow” an important milestone for the company, which is expected to use the revenues to pay off liabilities associated with the movie and Moon River Studios. Funds in excess of those expenses will be distributed as a dividend to Moon River shareholders.
FONU2 will receive a 10-percent distribution fee and a 20-percent return on all funds spent relating to the rights acquisition and costs associated with the movie’s release. FONU2 has committed to provide those costs and fees and assumes $540,000 of costs associated with the film.
Hussey, Gay and Bell has been asked to complete soil testing and topography studies and has been directed to complete four design studies. The work is expected to be completed by the end of the month.
Wohlfiel said no dirt is being moved right now because permits still have to be obtained, but construction on the first phase of the studios could begin in the next few months.
The company also announced Monday that Graham Bradstreet will be the chief financial officer of FONU2. Bradstreet had been Medient and Moon River’s executive president and head of structured finance.
“After close to seven months of restructuring, it is getting really fun and exciting again,” Shapiro said. “Things are starting to happen. Things are rocking and rolling and moving forward in a big way.”