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New Orleans-area film, TV studio buys old Ford building

July 11, 2021 GMT

ARABI, La. (AP) — A New Orleans-area film and TV studio plans to expand into a building that opened in 1923 as an assembly plant for Model T Fords.

The Ranch Film Studios didn’t say what it paid for the 225,000-square-foot (21,000-square-meter) building in Arabi.

But the company said it is looking for partners and plans to raise $35 million to complete the historic restoration and $35 million to create film stages and spaces for tech, gaming, and film related companies.

Arabi is less than a 10-minute drive away from the studio in Chalmette, which CEO Jason Waggenspack and his partners created in 2014 from what was left of two big-box stores blighted by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

The 219,000-square-foot (20,300-square-meter) studio currently houses about 25% of all entertainment productions in Louisiana, according to the company.

Productions filmed there have included “Terminator Genisys,″ ″ Deepwater Horizon,”,“Bill & Ted Face the Music,” the limited Showtime series “Your Honor,” the Disney-plus series ″Secrets of Sulphur Springs,″ and the Netflix films “The Lovebirds” and ″The Dirt,″ a biopic about the band Moley Crue.

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The Ford building was designed by famed industrial architect Albert Kahn, who also designed Detroit’s Belle Isle Aquarium and Book Depository.

Ford converted the suburban New Orleans plant in 1928 to make its Model A, according to Richard Campanella, a geographer with the Tulane University School of Architecture.

The company used it for parts and distribution from the early 1930s into the 1960s, except during World War II, when the Army used it as a warehouse, he wrote in a 2014 column for The Times-Picayune.

Campanella said it was bought in 1971 by an auto parts distributor and — after Toyota bought that company’s parent — was used to make newly imported Celicas and Corollas ready to sell. It was a freight warehouse from the late 1970s until Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005. In 2014 it was being leased for truck parking, Campanella wrote.

In 2018, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.