Park City’s Utah Film Studios have had no shortage of drama. There was the initial struggle to prove that a 374,000-square-foot soundstage and production facility would be right for a resort town, the legal battle between the property developer and financier (which involved a construction walkout), and the cancellation of Don Johnson’s promising network series Blood and Oil. As Kevin Costner’s bold Western TV series Yellowstone wraps season three from inside those state-of-the-art soundstages at Quinn’s Junction, locals wonder what will become of this hard-won, 30-acre behemoth now that it’s listed for sale.
Studios Manager and former Utah Film Commission Director Marshall Moore had his doubts about building the state’s largest multiuse production facility in Park City. But just as the voice in Field of Dreams (yes, another Costner classic) prophesized, “If you build it, [they] will come.” And so they did. Damsel, Imagine Dragons, Wind River, Hereditary, Blood and Oil, Yellowstone, and numerous independent commercials and films have all graced the space. “We’ve shown that a major film studio in Utah—and Park City—is viable,” says Moore.
The movie and television production facility at the interchange of Highways 40 and 248 broke ground in 2013 to begin Phase 1 of soundstages and production offices. Six years later, roughly a quarter of the project—currently 91,375 square feet—is complete. Phases 2 and 3 include plans for a hotel, an entertainment center, a film school, and a digital media center. The development needs more money to move forward; hence, the sale.
The realtor of record, Cushman & Wakefield, says it’s unlikely that a buyer would come in and level the place or build a Costco. “The land is tied to development agreements with the city,” says listing agent Tim Anker. He says he’s already had offers from other production studios.
With Yellowstone’s contract up in 2020, they hope to land a buyer before the studio sits empty again. “It’s obviously more attractive to have a long-term tenant using the space,” says Moore. Two things, however, influence the sale: movie industry interest and Utah’s film incentives. “We now have the infrastructure and talent [in Utah] to entice film production, but unless the state increases its incentives, we could be struggling,” Moore says.
Utah currently offers up to 25 cents back for every dollar spent locally and caps that allotment at $8.3 million annually. Once the budget is spent, no other projects can benefit. By comparison, New Mexico gives 25 to 30 percent back with a $110 million cap. Yellowstone’s creator and Utah homeowner Taylor Sheridan reluctantly moved his new feature film to New Mexico because Utah’s 2019 incentive budget was used up.
Moore says he’s not surprised the current owners (Quinn Capital Partners) have put the studios on the market. “[Turnover] happens all the time,” he says. “The Studios need new money to further the development phases.” In other words, don’t expect Park City’s Little Hollywood to fade to black.