Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Working on the First Coast; His Dream: A New Movie Studio Here Music Industry Vet with Film Experience Wants to Buy Prime Osborn for $40M

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Working on the First Coast; His Dream: A New Movie Studio Here Music Industry Vet with Film Experience Wants to Buy Prime Osborn for $40M

Article excerpt

Byline: Matt Soergel

Wayne Mooneyhan dreams big, and it's driving him crazy, he said, that some in Jacksonville don't see that his dream could come true.

He wants to buy the Prime Osborn Convention Center for $40 million and turn it into a giant movie soundstage. That's the first step, he's convinced, in a three-phase project that would include restaurants, clubs, a film school and a new convention center. It would, he says, turn Jacksonville into an entertainment mecca.

Mooneyhan is a music industry veteran who produced the film "Where the Red Fern Grows," starring musician Dave Matthews.

He has plans from Bastien and Associates, a high-profile California group that's designed soundstages on the West Coast and Mexico; it features Mooneyhan's project at the top of its web page. He said he's planning to partner with a California investment banking group that, at least before his project stalled, had investors willing to put up $150 million toward a studio in Jacksonville. "We're interested in bringing the money to finance the project," said Jay Bartlestone of the Private Financing Group.

Filmmaker Zev Guber, who produced "The Objective" in 2008 and made the TV specials "Lost Ships" and "Mystery of the Sphinx" in the 1990s, said he has several projects he would like to shoot at the would-be soundstage and in Jacksonville. Guber has known Mooneyhan for years. "He's got a big vision and he's out there struggling to put it together, but it looks like he's determined. He's been out there for a long time."

The city's film commissioner, Todd Roobin, who met with Mooneyhan, said "it is encouraging to hear these types of ventures" and the city will promote it if it comes "to fruition." Meanwhile, Angela Spears, spokeswoman for Mayor Alvin Brown, said the administration is open to all ideas.

Mooneyhan, though, said he's had a cool reaction from the city government, which seems skeptical about the proposal he's putting forward. We spoke to him about his efforts:

Those are big plans.

Yes, they are big plans and they take an enormous amount of money. But we've been working on this for years and we have the financing for phase one. …

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