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Georgia’s multi-billion dollar movie industry facing difficulties reopening amid pandemic

Rebound could be more difficult as COVID-19 cases keep climbing
Posted at 8:43 AM, Jul 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-20 11:43:07-04

With major movies filmed in Georgia over the last few years, Atlanta has become the "Hollywood of the South." For the last few months, however, all production has stopped.

“The type of work that we do to prep for movies has basically gone quiet,” said Craig Miller, who has been in the entertainment industry for more than 35 years.

This year, his Atlanta-based production company, Craig Miller Productions, cut back due to coronavirus concerns.

Movie studios shutting down across Georgia is having a huge economic impact on other industries.

“Fiscal year 2019 we were at $2.9 billion direct to spend,” said Lee Thomas with the Georgia Film Office, who predicts that number to be very much smaller this year.

Thomas says Georgia’s film industry directly and indirectly employs about 53,000 workers, making it one of the biggest industries in the state.

“It’s not only the people that work directly in the industry but all the ancillary services from rental cars to hotels to restaurants,” she said.

Restaurants like Palmer’s in Peachtree City, Georgia.

Ashley Edwards is the owner of this restaurant where cast and crew often come to eat. She says her business has lost big bucks since the shutdown.

“I’d say three days a week at least we have about maybe $500 to $800 worth of to go orders by 11:30 a.m.,” Edwards said. "We’ve definitely lost that business."

Back on set, Miller is following the Georgia Film Academy’s new COVID Compliance Course, a new video detailing preventative practices approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) with the goal of getting the industry back to work safely.

“They’re doing temperature checks and COVID-19 testing,” Miller said about people returning to work.

As COVID-19 cases continue to rise across the country, however, Miller says it’s making restarting production more difficult.