Filmmaker plans Tamaqua studio
Lights, camera, action!
A Pennsylvania filmmaker and actor is eyeing land in Tamaqua for a $30 million film studio complex complete with an on-site hotel, catering facility and day care.
“We anticipate being very competitive with comparable film studios in New York City, New Jersey, Hudson Valley and Atlanta, Georgia. We believe that we will rapidly become the go-to film studio in the Northeast region,” said Robert J. Morgalo.
Called OPF Film Studios of Tamaqua, Morgalo said it will create thousands of permanent and temporary jobs and inject millions of dollars into the local economy.
The exact location has yet to be determined, but Morgalo said it will be within the borough limits.
Original plans were to construct in Reading.
“In the past two years I have produced many film projects there and I was looking for a way to provide a positive impact on the local economy,” Morgalo said.
He discussed plans with Reading city officials and multiple meetings followed. But when the meetings began to drag and no progress was being made, Morgalo said studio investors were becoming frustrated.
He met with state Sen. David Argall earlier this year to discuss amending the Pennsylvania Film Tax Credit. The program awards tax credits to film makers who spend the majority of their money in Pennsylvania. The credit, however, had been capped at $70 million for years.
In July, Argall and other law makers helped secure a $30 million boost to the program.
“At that first meeting with Sen. Argall, he opened my eyes to Tamaqua and it left a positive impression,” Morgalo recalled.
So, in July, Morgalo met with Micah Gursky, executive director of the Tamaqua Area Community Partnership, and Daniel Evans, who heads the Tamaqua Community Revitalization Improvement Zone Authority.
Both, he said, recognized the economic benefits of bringing the industry to the borough.
Thirty days later, OPF Film Studios received written approval from the CRIZ authority.
“Our investors are elated, and we are moving forward on bringing this $30 million, state-of-the-art film studio to Tamaqua,” Morgalo said. “It may be a loss for the city of Reading, but it’s a huge gain for Tamaqua and its residents.”
Gursky commended the CRIZ authority’s swift response.
“This is still speculative; this still may not happen, but the fact that the CRIZ was able to work with the developer and within 30 days issued a letter of commitment was remarkable,” Gursky said. “If it is going to happen, we want to help it happen. We certainly don’t want it to stop.”
Evans said the commonwealth’s expanded film tax credit will allow Pennsylvania to compete with other locales.
“Is it really crazy pie in the sky stuff?,” he asked of the film studio proposal. “No, because this is a huge industry and it seems to be growing. There are studios being funded and built all around. Why not Eastern Pennsylvania?”
Evans said the authority was impressed by the studio’s extensive business plan and virtual tour. With a proposed hotel, commissary and day care, Evans said the project “has a huge potential in terms of jobs.”
“Whether or not he can complete the touchdown pass, we will see,” Evans said.
Morgalo said he and other OPF officials have a site in mind for the studios, but are still in negotiations and exploring all options.
“The decision (to move to Tamaqua) is made,” Morgalo noted. “The only thing pending is the exact location. But we are confident that it will be resolved soon.”
When it is built, the facility will span the length of a football field and have a 6-story tall green screen.
Morgalo said Tamaqua will be attractive to many in the film industry. For one, tax incentives will be offered through both the Federal Opportunity Zone and CRIZ.
“This is a game changer in the film industry. For example, filmmakers, major networks (CBS, NBC, ABC) and streaming networks (Amazon, HULU, Apple TV, Netflix) pay millions of dollars each year in payroll taxes, sales taxes, and other related taxes,” he said. “By moving their productions from New York to Tamaqua, within the CRIZ Authority, those taxes can be refunded to them. Offering them millions in savings.”
As an actor, Morgalo has more than 40 film and television credits and has done more than 50 commercials. He has written and produced 10 film projects in the last two years,
He is a retired and disabled U.S. Army combat veteran, and served in Iraq from 2002-03.