Blow to Hollywood-sur-Garonne




The Préfet of the Haute Garonne may have poured Pyrenean ice all over the idea but Bruno Granja, an architect keen to turn a former Toulouse air base into Hollywood-sur-Garonne film studios is not giving up.

A Facebook page set up by supporters of Hollywood-sur-Garonne

The architect whose firm STF-Société Studios Toulouse Francazal had earlier teamed up with Raleigh Studios of the US in a plan to convert the 25-ha decommissioned Francazal site into a serious cinema studio lot suffered a setback December 4.

The Préfet, the state’s delegate in awarding tenders for government property rejected all four tenders submitted for the Francazal site’s two subdivisions .

The Préfet’s statement said the studios, a separate offer for Francazal South by Futura 21 to provide a leisure complex with an indoor ski slope and two offers for Francazal West, for industrial and aviation use were all rejected.

Referring to the film studio proposal the prefecture said: The acquiring company “does not meet certain essential criteria set out in the tender call:

  • The price offered is significantly lower than the estimated valuation of the site;
  • The proposed terms of payment do not match the tender specification;
  • The candidate makes his offer conditional on fulfilment of certain conditions not set out in the initial tender document”

But the outcome has merely re-galvanised the fanatical-about-film-architect who has written to the authorities demanding a review and direct negotiations with all the parties involved including rival bidders SNC Lavalin Aéroports.

Bruno Granja, the driving force behind a plan to make Toulouse a major rival to Hollywood and Bollywood appears to have some support from local residents who see the planned studios as an important diversification of job opportunities in Toulouse. The city has a well deserved reputation as France’s premier aerospace, high-tech and medical science centre. Film-making was thus seen in some quarters as another string to the city’s bow. But, it would appear, real estate developers and other powerful interests have been hard at work to ensure the ex-airport is used for other purposes.

 

Supporters of a Toulousian Hollywood have launched a Facebook page and an online petition calling on the head of state to support the studios, in an effort to keep the plan alive.

Shortly before Christmas the architect told Toulouse online paper Objectif News, the prefecture’s decision was subject to challenge and he responded point by point to the rejection  of his firm’s tender made public in the tender assessment report by the préfecture.

The préfecture said it had rejected the film project because its funding was not assured, the bidder did not have the financial clout for a project of this size, and there had been no firm commitment to a partnership forthcoming from Raleigh Studios.

Undeterred Bruno Granja told La Dépêche du Midi that he would appeal the outcome.

Supporters have set up an online petition to save the project

Later speaking to Objectif News he answered the main criticisms made of his tender bid:

– On the price of land: “The prefecture says we proposed an offer significantly lower than the estimated value. Yet the State, in its tender provided no reserve figure. Moreover, we requested an estimate of the cost of cleaning the site’s pollution before November 15 so that we could work this into our offer but this was never forthcoming. Our offer is around 17 million euros and I believe the state expected to raise some 20 to 25 million euros. “

– On payment : “We proposed a two stage payment, with an aim of implementing the second stage of work in 2016, once the first stage was operational. It is inconceivable to bring 25 hectares of movie studios and tourism and leisure activities on-stream in one go. “

– On conditionality : “When you buy land to build a house, you only commit once you are sure of a building permit. This is the same, that is just common sense. To date, Francazal has not been zoned for urban development which is why our offer is subject to conditions. “

– On being financially ‘too small’: “This company STF (Studio Toulouse Francazal) is new, I set it up to bid for the tender. A large national bank and private business partners are committed financially to the tune of several million euros. Our tender offer included notes and letters demonstrating strong financial partners who themselves had verified the feasibility of the project.”

Worthy of a film script of its own, it would seem the Hollywood-sur-Garonne saga has some way to run yet.

Meanwhile although it may be some time before Toulouse Film Studios take off, why not make use of the interim and revisit some of the top French film releases of the past decade as suggested by A WOMAN’S PARIS™ blog here: 86 Classic French films to watch again and again.

“To better understand France and French culture a notion of its cinematographic wealth helps”  blog author Barbara Redmond writes. Here then are a few of her recommended  films (mainly from the 1990s and 2000s): Camille redouble; De rouille et d’os; Un bonheur n’arrive jamais seul; 2 Days In New York; Le Prénom; The Artist; Polisse; Intouchables; L’arnacœur; Des Hommes et des Dieux; Les Aventures Extraordinaires d’Adèle; Blanc-Sec; Les Émotifs; Anonymes; Les Petits Mouchoirs; Potiche Tournée; Tout ce qui brille. Visit her blog for the rest.

Story: Ken Pottinger
editorial@french-news-online.com

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