By Lydia Wheeler
Since most filming is now done on location, New Dominion Pictures no longer needs its studio space and 38 acres of land in Suffolk.
The nature of the industry has changed, said the company's CEO, Nicolas Valcour. Reality shows presented in a soap opera style known as docusoaps have replaced docudramas - TV dramas that deal freely with historical events and are filmed on sets.
When docudramas were popular, Valcour said New Dominion Pictures used its production space 230 days out of the year. Last year, he said, they spent maybe 50 days on the property. As a result, the company, which has had its studios in Suffolk since 1999, is selling its 100 Film Way facility.
Best known for creating and producing the TV show "A Haunting," which is now in its sixth season and airs on Destination America on Friday nights, New Dominion's newest brainchild is "FantomWorks." Filmed in Norfolk, the show - now in its sixth episode of the first season, takes viewers into Daniel Short's auto restoration shop at 2400 Hampton Blvd. every Sunday night at 8 on Velocity, a Discovery channel.
"I didn't shoot one scene in the studio," Valcour said about the first season. "Everything was shot in the shop."
For a documentary reality show like "FantomWorks," New Dominion will shoot on location 45 hours a week for 12 weeks in a row. If the company should need space to build sets, Valcour said he can rent a warehouse once the Film Way property is sold.
The company has hired Riddle Associates Inc. as its listing agent. The asking price is $3.4 million. Sold separately, the 27,530-square-foot building and the 6 acres is listed at $1.9 million while the adjacent 32-acre property that is undeveloped is listed at $1.5 million.
As an associate broker, Bill Brackman, a vice president at Riddle Associates, said he's trying to figure out what other types of businesses could utilize a space that has ceilings more than 30 feet high. In the 27,530-square-foot building, 17,000 square feet is office and administrative space. The building is also equipped with a full-service cafeteria.
Built in the late 1970s, Atlantic Film Studios, was the building's first owner. Scenes for the movie "Navy SEALS" starring Charlie Sheen in 1990 were shot on the property.
"We have two interested parties right now," Brackman said. "One is a church, which would use the building as it sits now with some obvious renovations of the production area as a sanctuary."
The property, which is zoned light industrial, would need to be rezoned office and institutional to allow for the church, a process that needs both planning commission and city council approval and can take anywhere from 90 to 120 days.
A medical company is the second interested party.
Though the property has been on the market since 2008, Brackman said Riddle Associates has only been the listing agent since January.
"It was for sale before by previous companies and they worked their hardest to try to find the right use for it," he said. "We picked the torch up and are trying to run with the property."
New Dominion Pictures has yet to find a subsequent space for its offices and permanent staff of 20. Valcour said he still has time to look.
"We will stay in Tidewater," he said. "We'll shop around."
It's good news for the commonwealth, which in 2002, provided the company with the first-ever funding through the Governor's Motion Picture Opportunity Grant Fund. The grant was to help New Dominion hire Virginia crew members and purchase Virginia goods and services for production of the docudrama "Special Forces: Untold Stories.
In 1999, the city of Suffolk provided New Dominion Pictures with funding to entice it to move from Virginia Beach to Suffolk. Located near Lynnhaven Mall in Oceana West Corporate Park, New Dominion was looking for a new space to escape the jet noise. Kevin Hughes, Suffolk's economic development director, said the city gave the company $340,000 through it's Economic Development Investment Program, reflecting a $5.5 million capital investment from the company. In order to receive and keep the incentive dollars, Hughes said the company had to retain operations in the city for at least five to 10 years and for New Dominion Pictures it's been 14.
"They are under no obligation to stay in Suffolk," said Hughes. "They do not have to pay anything back to us."nib