No Burn Notice deal yet
By Catherine Lackner
Despite published reports of a deal between the "Burn Notice" TV series and the City of Miami, there's still a chance production will depart, taking with it millions in spending, hundreds of jobs and untold positive global impressions.
"Discussions are ongoing and there has been some progress, but nothing specific to report," said Leslie Oren, Fox Television Studios spokesperson, on Tuesday. "The production remains optimistic that an agreement can be reached."
The show is filmed in a 107,000-square-foot site adjacent to City Hall and pays $240,000 rent yearly, but the city wants to raze the building for a waterfront park as part of its Coconut Grove Waterfront Master Plan.
During lease negotiations last year, commissioners suggested the show move to the Miami Entertainment Complex, a city-owned site on Northwest 13th Street that's meant to become a film studio. Terry Miller, the show's executive producer, said then that wasn't feasible, and he reiterated it this year.
A deal for the former Coconut Grove Exhibition Center offered by Commissioner Marc Sarnoff was rumored to include doubling rent to $480,000 per year and a stipulation that crews demolish the center at the end of the show's seventh season next year.
While she declined to cite numbers, "A rent increase was part of the initial terms," Ms. Oren acknowledged, "and it is part of the negotiations."
With regard to the center, "While the special effects on "Burn Notice' are great, the production does not actually blow up buildings," she said. "I am sure the City of Miami knows that we wouldn't, under any circumstances, blow up the Coconut Grove Convention Center."
"Mr. Sarnoff did offer terms under which production could remain at Coconut Grove," Bob Lemchen, Fox senior vice president of production, said Friday. "These terms are under review, but at this juncture we are not even close to terms that [Fox subsidiary] TVM Productions can accept. Negotiations will continue, but the studio concurrently is exploring alternative production locations, including within Florida as well as outside the state."
That the series might leave is distressing to many in the Legislature, said Tallahassee area Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda. "My concern is that we've been working diligently to have the State of Florida be welcoming to the film industry. It's a small industry and they talk to one another. It's not just one community that this will affect.
"One of the first things that should be done is to extend hospitality to Fox Television Studios," she said. "That is not a code for monetary incentives. That is simply not throwing you out of the lease or doubling the rent, or demanding that certain things be written into the script, which is a misunderstanding of the creative process. What I'm speaking of is business courtesy."
Florida might lose high-paying jobs that are clean, friendly to the environment, and good for the state's image, she said.
"I don't know of any Florida community that's chock full of jobs — any community that can say "no, we don't want this here,'" Ms. Vasilinda said.
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