Film company gets long-term lease at Cox Center

Published: Wednesday, December 9, 2020 By: Janice Francis-Smith Source: The Journal Record

Prairie Surf Media will get eight years to use the Cox Center as a soundstage for film production, according to the terms of the lease agreement approved by the Oklahoma City Council on Tuesday.

If all goes well, the city will have fostered thousands of jobs and Prairie Surf Media will have grown to the point where it can move out of the Cox Center into a new facility. If the plan doesn’t work out, the city hasn’t really lost anything, Mayor David Holt said Tuesday.

The agreement gives PSM a five-year lease with the option for three more years. PSM, founded by two Oklahoma natives who worked in the industry in Los Angeles for years before attempting to bring some Hollywood-style productions to Oklahoma, will work to recruit production projects to film at the Cox Center.

PSM’s website highlights the Cox Center facility’s 260,000 square feet, 25-to-65-foot-high ceilings and five “clearspan” soundstages to attract film productions to the facility, located at 1 Myriad Gardens in downtown Oklahoma City. The facility is now being touted as “home to the largest soundstage in the Midwest,” according to a promotional video shared with the council on Tuesday.

Under the terms of the lease, PSM will pay $1 in rent for the first year and $75,000 the second year, and the amount will ramp up to $250,000 for the fifth year. While giving the company a break during the startup period, the city will be made whole by the end of the agreement, said Assistant City Manager Aubrey McDermid.

The city will front expenses for relocating the OKC Blue team and previously contracted events, and PSM will repay a portion of those costs to the city. PSM would pay 75% of an estimated $1.1 million in utility costs per year.

“What if it’s a failure?” questioned Councilman David Greenwell, Ward 5. “All the risk is on us and there’s no upside.”

City Manager Craig Freeman explained that the building cannot be used as a convention center under the terms of the agreement with Omni Hotels. City officials had been scratching their heads trying to find a use for the building short of boarding it up or tearing it down when PSM approached them with the idea of using the facility as a soundstage.

“Failure would be defined by film productions not coming to the facility,” Holt said in response to Greenwell’s comments. “If that were to occur, PSM would want to get out of this faster than the city of Oklahoma City is going to want to get out of this.”

“There will be many benefits to the community if this is successful, and that’s what we’re in the business of doing,” Holt said. “We’re not a business. We try to bring things to our city and in this case its jobs and economic development.”

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