Mayor backs major tax break for company offering movie studio on Oahu

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi said a plan to build a new movie studio on west Oahu will not only create good-paying jobs, but help diversify the island economy.

Last year, the Hawaiian film industry generated a record $480 million in revenue. But much of the post-production work for filming here was shipped off-island due to lack of studio space.

Building a new studio could help the industry double that revenue, Blangiardi said.

“We are now looking at a billion-plus-dollar business. I’ll say that for the record. We also plan to create a lot of great jobs, good paying jobs,” Major said.

“There are a few major productions going on right now. One of them involves Jason Momoa. They did the first 20 days or so here, then they went to New Zealand to do the production.

Hackman Capital Partners of California, which owns 18 studios worldwide, wants to build a $250 million movie studio known as Aloha Studio on 17 acres of land next to the University of Hawaii West Oahu.

The plan will include six to 12 sound stages adjacent to the Creative Media Academy at UH West Oahu. The academy’s founder says it’s about diversifying Hawaii’s economy.

“We’re not sitting here talking about more condos, more malls, more restaurants. We’re talking about things that generate real jobs that keep people here,” said Chris Lee, the academy’s founder.

“These are jobs that all comfortably fall into the living wage category, often in the six-figure range.”

To achieve this, investors are asking for an exemption from paying property taxes.

A new bill currently before City Council provides a 30-year property tax holiday for businesses that invest at least $75 million in a new facility and employ more than 100 people.

Some worry about the loss of tax revenue.

“That would be exempting or pardoning $930,000 a year. And for 30 years, we’re talking about $27.9 million,” said Honolulu City Council President Tommy Waters.

But the UH West Oahu property has been vacant for decades, and Waters acknowledged the property won’t generate tax revenue for the city if it remains undeveloped.

The city council’s budget committee delayed making a decision on the bill and said it would hold a new hearing due to technical issues.

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