Marc Sarnoff's Miami CRA Film Studio Stalls, Pisses Off Industry Locals

A year later, Miami's purported film studio looks nothing like this.
A year later, Miami's purported film studio looks nothing like this.

Don't worry, Marc Sarnoff. We're just not all cut out for show business.

The City of Miami's most frenetically incompetent commissioner -- he of the pop-up pedophile-thwarting parks, a personal arsenal of firearms, and lies about his family lineage -- noticed that South Florida is finally becoming a top-flight film and television destination. After all, we've recently provided the backdrop for Charlie's Angels, Burn Notice, Tom Cruise's Rock of Ages and the New Times-inspired Mark Wahlberg flick Pain & Gain.

So "Marky Mark" Sarnoff decided to break himself off a piece of that action by building the city its own film studio. In February 2011, through the property-tax-funded Omni Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA), the commissioner engineered the $3.1 million purchase of an 89,000-square-foot warehouse from the Miami-Dade County School Board.

The complex, to be dubbed the Miami Entertainment Complex, is on 29 NW 13th Street, across the street from the privately-owned Ice Palace film studios. The CRA planned to turn the building into a full-fledged studio with another $10.6 million in taxpayer cash. In Sarnoff's scheme, the CRA would rake in $3 million in revenue annually by renting out the space for film projects.

In a riveting article written by himself and posted on his own website -- forgive the typos -- Sarnoff posited: "We already have a Hollywood in South Florida, but what about turning Miami into the Hollywood like the one on the West Coast where all the big movie are made?"

Almost a year and a half later, the warehouse remains depressingly untouched. And Sarnoff appears to be quietly cutting his losses. The CRA sold part of the property to the Florida Department of Transportation for just over $1 million, according to the agency's documents, and Sarnoff concedes that the agency is open to shopping the rest. "We're debating what to do with it," he tells Riptide. "I don't see us selling it and saying 'That's it.' We might consider selling it with the stipulation that the buyer uses it as a film studio."

But local entertainment honchos will be happy to see project choke. In an unscientific poll of owners and managers of existing local studios, most told Riptide that they hated the idea of the city using tax money to establish a competitor. "The idea of taking public money and putting it into a venue like that is wrong," said one industry insider who asked not to be named. Agreed developer and film-biz entrepreneur Gil Terem: "I'm paying for
the government to compete with me. It feels a bit like Cuba."

"Talk to most any filmmaker in Miami," says blogger and local film industry stalwart Al Crespo. "Nobody's happy."

Sarnoff has heard the criticism. But in true Hollywood fashion, he puts on his stunna shades to block out the haters. "Nobody in Miami has a real movie studio," he huffs to Riptide. "I'm trying to fill a gap that doesn't exist."

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