Burn Notice gets new one-year lease
By Catherine Lackner
Producers of the hit "Burn Notice" TV series and the City of Miami last week agreed on a one-year lease extension for the former Coconut Grove Exposition Center in exchange for $450,000 in annual rent, to be paid even if the show doesn't get renewed for a seventh season.
The show has filmed in the 107,000-square-foot space, adjacent to City Hall, since 2007, paying $240,000 per year, but Miami wants to demolish the building for a waterfront park as part of its Coconut Grove Waterfront Master Plan.
The city's attempt to evict the show at the end of this season's production and get on with the demolition touched off a firestorm of controversy and galvanized the local film industry, which bombarded commissioners with emails, letters, phone calls and visits. About 150 people work on "Burn Notice," and owner TVM Productions said it poured $100 million into the local economy in the show's first five years.
"I'm glad that you were able to sit down and reach an agreement so that we can keep those jobs here," said Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones. "We support and love the show being here."
She suggested that city staff work with TVM toward the end of the upcoming lease to transition the production into studio space in Miami, should there be an eighth season. "We want to have a bigger game plan."
"A show like yours is a great deal for the city, on multiple levels," Commissioner Francis Suarez told Terry Miller, the show's executive producer. "The international and national publicity we get is a great economic benefit."
"This is a very fair and impactful license agreement," said Commissioner Marc Sarnoff, who negotiated it. But it's imperative that the building be torn down eventually, he said. "If we can connect the waterfront, that's the most valuable thing for our city. There could be condos along Bayshore Drive that would be worth millions."
Because Fox Television Studios has agreed not to request further lease extensions beyond October 2013, where production might move after that is a critical question.
During lease negotiations last year, Mr. Sarnoff suggested the show move to the Miami Entertainment Complex (MEC), a city-owned building on Northwest 13th Street that is meant to be a film studio. Mr. Miller said then that wasn't feasible, and he reiterated it this year.
"You will always have people nitpicking," Mr. Sarnoff said last week. "There are 1,000 reasons not to do something, and you will always affect somebody. I still say it belongs in the MEC."
During this summer's tense negotiations, producers said that if their dispute with the city couldn't be resolved, they would probably leave Miami, possibly for Broward County. A move out of Florida was also a possibility, they said, as were plot changes that would dictate the primary characters' relocation.
"We're thrilled" that the lease extension went through, Mr. Miller said after the meeting. "We're very pleased to have another year." He said he couldn't predict where an eighth season might be filmed if the series wins one, however. "It depends on a lot of things, including our story arc."
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