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Scituate man keeps hopes alive for Plymouth Rock Studios

Posted by dinouye  October 20, 2011 10:15 AM

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By Christine Legere, Globe correspondent

A dream for a $500 million movie-making facility on the site of a country club in Plymouth has now been reduced to a single partner making phone calls in search of financing from an office in his Scituate home.

Plymouth Rock Studios chief operations officer Joe DiLorenzo is the sole remaining member of the high-profile team that roared into America’s Hometown four years ago with the dream of building a mega film-production complex on the grounds of the Waverly Oaks Golf Club.

DiLorenzo says he wants to see ‘‘a few options play out’’ before giving up.

‘‘I’ll stick around until they do,’’ he said in an interview.

Bill Wynne, the real estate mogul whose job was to nail down the studio site, was the latest to bail, doing so quietly a few months ago. From his home in Duxbury, he remained tight-lipped about his departure.

‘‘I don’t want to get into the details,’’ Wynne said last week. ‘‘My son and I have a couple other interests we’re pursuing locally and internationally.’’ Wynne is a principal of Bison Investments, a real estate investment firm.

Wynne remains a shareholder in Plymouth Rock Studios Holdings LLC, but wouldn’t comment on whether he would return to his former position of chief executive officer of the studio venture if financing is found.

Well over $10 million in investment money, some from the pockets of Plymouth residents, has been spent on lawyers, engineers, and architects who worked on the studio project, which promised soundstages, back lots, housing for the stars, job opportunities for locals, and education to develop a skilled work force.

Gone are Plymouth Rock Studios’ plush offices in Cordage Park, the daily ‘‘Hollywood East’’ updates on the project’s progress, and the three dozen staff members who regularly kept the studio plan front-page news in 2008 and most of 2009.

David Kirkpatrick, Earl Lestz, and Thom Black, three powerhouses in the California team promoting the project, are also long gone. Kirkpatrick bowed out under a barrage of bad publicity after the Globe Spotlight Team revealed a past of shaky financial deals gone bad.

Money isn’t Plymouth Rock Studios’ only problem; it may soon lack a location. The Waverly Oaks Golf Club is being considered for a 100-unit subdivision of luxury homes.

Club owner Mark Ridder recently resurrected a proposal he crafted prior to agreeing to sell the 242-acre golf course to Plymouth Rock in 2008. While Ridder has not turned in a definitive plan, he recently met informally with the town’s planning staff to discuss his housing proposal. Ridder did not return a call for comment.

DiLorenzo admitted there’s no longer an agreement securing Waverly Oaks for the project. ‘‘Mark owns the property and he can do what he wants with it,’’ he said.

‘‘Hopefully, when and if we get the money, Mark will still want to work with us.’’

While Plymouth Rock Studios is languishing, a plan for a $104 million film studio at Fort Devens in Ayer is storming ahead, with the help of the state’s MassDevelopment office.

The agency’s spokeswoman said MJM Development, the Andover firm behind the film studio at Devens, is conducting ‘‘due diligence’’ in anticipation of closing the deal for the target site.

The firm will begin with a $30 million phase that includes four 18,000-square-foot sound stages, 30,000 square feet of production support, and a 20,000-square-foot mill to produce the sets. Three phases would be built over 10 years.

‘‘We’ve already had significant interest from the West Coast,’’ said MJM principal Michael Meyers. ‘‘We’re in the middle of the permitting process and the design. We’ll look for all approvals by February 2012, and we expect to open early in 2013.’’

DiLorenzo said success at Devens doesn’t mean failure for Plymouth Rock.

‘‘We don’t care about competition, whether it’s at Devens, Weymouth, Lowell, or South Boston,’’ he said. ‘‘You want Massachusetts to become a location for film production. If it does, we should all do pretty well.’’

Peter Forman, executive director of the South Shore Area Chamber of Commerce, said he is disappointed with Plymouth Rock’s lack of progress. ‘‘It would have been good for the South Shore, but I can’t say I’m shocked or surprised given the level of difficulty there is in putting a project like that together,’’ he said.

Denis Hanks, executive director of the Plymouth Area Chamber of Commerce, agreed. ‘‘It’s just a tough economy,’’ he said. ‘‘Look at Downtown Crossing.’’

Hanks noted a small film studio called InfoMax is opening in Plymouth’s industrial park.

‘‘Maybe we start small and get to a large studio with sound stages sometime in the future,’’ he said.

Many have considered Plymouth Rock Studios a failed project since the team announced it had secured $550 million in funding in 2009 only to have it fall through a few months later.

‘‘If the money comes through and we succeed now, great,’’ DiLorenzo said. ‘‘And if it doesn’t, everybody already thinks we failed anyway.’’


Christine Legere can be reached at christinelegere@yahoo.com.


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