Hollywood’s lure worked its charms on about 600 Plymouth residents who showed up Tuesday night to hear about a proposed movie studio.
Hollywood’s lure worked its charms on about 600 Plymouth residents who showed up to hear about a proposed movie studio.
Residents crowded into the big ballroom at the Radisson Hotel to discuss a non-binding ballot question on the Plymouth Rock Studios plan.
“I was hoping for about 100,” Plymouth Rock Studios founder and former Paramount Studios president David Kirkpatrick said. “They say there are 500 to 600 people here. That just slays me. I’m overwhelmed by the support.”
Kirkpatrick and his small band of former Hollywood executives including Earl Lestz, arrived in town about six months ago with talk of building a world-class movie and television production studio on 1,000 acres of woods in the rural southwest corner of town.
Kirkpatrick’s unwavering enthusiasm in the face of daunting odds has inspired residents and generated a large following that now includes state and local officials.
He says he is here to stay, but Kirkpatrick needs the approval of two-thirds of town meeting voters to transfer the town-owned land and change its zoning to allow the studio project.
The project also requires a new highway interchange on Route 25, although state officials have agreed to pay for the ramp and other roadway improvements.
A non-binding question on the May 10 ballot asks voters if they support the idea of a studio on the land.
Tuesday’s meeting was called to rally residents and send a message to Plymouth’s 126 town meeting members in advance of the June 9 special town meeting.
Community support has been widespread, and there is little fear that the ballot question will be rejected, making last night’s turnout more surprising to organizers.
“People sometimes say, ‘Oh it’s going to pass, I don’t need to get involved,’” Plymouth Rock spokesman Kevin O’Reilly said. “It’s amazing that this many people turned out on a Tuesday night for this.”
“I knew we were going to have a good crowd, but I didn’t anticipate this,” Yes to the Rock committee president Richard Silva said.
Silva, who was born and raised in Plymouth, says the crowd reflected a cross-section of the town.
“Everyone is here, from lawyers, to educators to local business owners,” he said. “And a lot of them already knew about the studio. If this fails, Plymouth loses big time.”
Residents Christine Cox and Sandra Stuart agreed.
“You have to change and you have to grow, so why not with something positive like this,” Stuart said. “You can’t say no to everything. Nothing stays the same forever.”
Economic Development Director Denis Hanks said the project would boost the town’s commercial tax base by 50 percent.
He also was surprised by the big turnout. “It shows the momentum is building,” Hanks said.
Kirkpatrick and Lestz want to build a $350 million studio, with 14 sound stages, a 10-acre back lot, a theater, a hotel, offices, a small village center, and an education campus with a private arts academy.
Kirkpatrick says Lestz is the best in the business, but it is Kirkpatrick who has won over local residents. “No one does this better than David,” Plymouth Rock development partner Bill Wynne said.
Kirkpatrick topped his informational presentation with a video montage of locals, movie producers and actors talking about the movie production business and what it might mean for Plymouth.
Kirkpatrick ended the video with an image of the famous white “Hollywood” sign flying across a 3-D image of the country and landing in Plymouth creating ‘‘Hollywood East.’’
The crowd erupted in applause and most left with pro-studio signs tucked under their arms.
Tamara Race may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.