Unity, Lifton leave city suddenly

Sunday Times Newspapers

ALLEN PARK – After one year in the city, Unity Studios and the Lifton Institute for Media Skills are gone.

The two film-focused businesses, both run by President Jimmy Lifton, left the Allen Park Studio Center Wednesday and Thursday after alerting city officials Wednesday.

Unity Studios officials in published news reports have called the move a business decision. City officials did not return calls Friday seeking comment on the abrupt decision.

Both Unity Studios and the LIMS are headed to Detroit, with Unity Studios’ corporate offices moving into TechTown until final negotiations are completed on a permanent site along that city’s Creative Corridor. According to a press release from Unity, two sites are being considered that will house the studios’ sound stages, production offices and support businesses.

“We’re very excited to be moving to the city of Detroit and to be a part of Detroit’s emerging Creative Corridor,” Lifton said. “Having trained over 200 people, filmed three feature films and put over 150 people to work on various projects, we are doing all we can to play a part in Detroit’s developing film industry.

“The Lifton Institute for Media Skills will continue training Detroit-area residents for meaningful careers in the film industry.”

Unity Studios recently completed the feature film “War Flowers,” a Civil War story starring Christina Ricci and Tom Berenger. However, business for the studio has not been as fruitful as many had hoped.

“It is fair and obvious to say Unity Studios has not developed into the project its owners represented some months ago, and that we and Allen Park residents have all been waiting for,” Mayor Gary Burtka said in a statement. “In recent months, Unity’s position at the Allen Park Studio Center had diminished significantly.”

Burtka said the lease options with Unity Studios and the LIMS included a stipulation that the two businesses can end their leases if another tenant on the property offered competitive services.

“We have two significant and growing tenants at the Allen Park Studio Center in Stautzenberger Institute and Roush (Industries),” he said. “Stautzenberger Institute is actively in the planning stage to increase their footprint on the property, increase the number of programs and will be making announcements shortly. “We continue to aggressively seek new tenants to fill the space and have been approached by others in the film industry and outside the film industry who are actively considering the property.”

The Center for Film Studies and Global Renaissance Entertainment also are housed in the Studio Center. Global Renaissance submitted a proposal in June to purchase the complex from the city, which had hired S3 Entertainment Group and Real Estate Development and Investment Co. to manage different aspects of the complex.

“We wish Unity Studios the best of luck in their new location,” Burtka said.

(Contact Chris Jackett at cjackett@bewickpublications.com)