Magic Media quietly making a name for itself

Cologne facility takes aim at Babelsberg Studios' dominance

Even though Germany's renaissance as a location for international productions is part of a nationwide effort to attract foreign shoots, the spoils have gone mostly to Berlin's storied Babelsberg Studios. But all that could change with the recent bookings at Cologne's Magic Media Co., which has quietly moved into the passing lane of Germany's film-production Autobahn.

"At first, many international stars believed that Cologne was some small town in some remote German province," says Marco Mehlitz, who produced David Cronenberg's "A Dangerous Method" at MMC and will return in October with Istvan Szabo's "The Door." But as he, Stephen Frears, Kate Winslet, Keira Knightley and Viggo Mortensen can attest by now, Germany's fourth-largest city is anything but provincial, and neither is MMC. Its two lots are on 4.5 million square feet of usable acreage and offer 340,000 square feet of studio space, 200,000 square feet of storage and 510,000 square feet of rentable office space.

While pricing and financing have never been the only determinants, they are still the main parameters in any decision for a shooting location or studio. "The Filmstiftung NRW is Germany's strongest regional funding institution and the state chancellery is fully committed to supporting film in North Rhine-Westphalia," says producer Michael Souvignier, whose partnership with MMC is aimed at bringing international projects there.

Souvignier points out that the addition of the NRW Bank as a gap-financier was not just icing on the cake but a "really smart instrument" to further attract productions. Unfortunately, as this story went to print, there has been speculation that the NRW. Bank may be pulling out of gap-financing, a move that Souvignier says would have "disastrous consequences, even for current projects."

What this means for MMC is to be seen – but it would be a pity to have Europe's biggest studio (by size) and Germany's biggest state (by population) slow down just as its race with Babelsberg becomes more interesting.
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