NBCUniversal To Open Huge Studio Campus Outside Atlanta
Film and entertainment giant NBCUniversal Media, which owns brands like Universal Studios, DreamWorks, Focus Features, NBC, SyFy, Telemundo, Peacock and the Golf Channel, is establishing a new base for film and television productions at a former General Motors assembly plant outside Atlanta.
NBCU has secured a long-term agreement with Gray Television to lease and operate multiple production facilities at the 43-acre Assembly Studios campus in Doraville, Georgia, with construction set to start in the coming months, the companies announced Wednesday.
Assembly Studios is part of the larger 135-acre Assembly Atlanta mixed-use project, which Gray purchased last year from The Integral Group. NBCU has agreed to manage all studio and production facilities on the campus, including the existing Third Rail Studios, which Gray also acquired last year.
The agreement allows Gray to focus on its own video production business, including its 2020 acquisition of independent film production studio Swirl Films.
The studio campus, at full build-out, is expected to span 19 studio buildings shared between Gray TV, Swirl and NBCUniversal and employ more than 4,000 people. Gray plans to spend up to $140M this year and another $80M to $90M next year in capital expenditures for the project, which is expected to be ready for production to start in late 2023.
“The new venture announced today places Gray’s own studio projects inside a large, first-class television and film production facility that will draw upon and will surely increase the large pool of skilled industry professionals who also make their homes here in the Atlanta metroplex,” Gray Executive Chairman and CEO Hilton Howell Jr. said in the release.
The sprawling film campus also will include production office space, warehouses and mill space, and other amenities, including event space and a parking deck, according to the release.
“I am pleased to welcome NBCUniversal to Doraville. Their investment in Assembly will accelerate Gray Television’s plans to transform the site of our former GM Plant into a true 'Studio City.' The economic impact to Doraville, Metro Atlanta, and the state of Georgia cannot be overstated,” Doraville Mayor Joseph Geierman said in a statement.
Gray TV purchased the 125 acres of Assembly, off Interstate 285 roughly 15 miles north of Downtown Atlanta — last year from the Integral Group, which itself was planning to build a sprawling mixed-use campus.
At the time, Integral had dubbed the project Assembly Yards, but Gray TV has rebranded the overall project, which now reaches 135 acres, to Assembly Atlanta. The company, which owns scores of local TV stations across the country, enlisted local developer The Gipson Co. to build the campus and JLL as strategic adviser.
Gray's plans for the larger commercial development include a boutique hotel, townhouses and apartments, entertainment venues, retail, an e-gaming facility, a conference center, office buildings and a 5-acre park, to open over the next five to seven years, it said in a release. It expects to sell or lease those pieces of the property to other developers.
Talks between Gray TV and NBCU and the city evolved over the course of months to get to Wednesday's announcement, Doraville City Manager Chris Eldridge said, adding that Gray TV “had the vision, determination, means, knowledge and expertise to make it happen. The fact that this idea transformed into a reality during a pandemic makes this all the more remarkable.”