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Movie producer presents plan for using old Natchez school building
from Staff Reports - NEWS
October 11, 2017 -

By John Mott Coffey

NATCHEZ, Miss. – Natchez Mayor Darryl Grennell and aldermen are considering plans from a movie producer to acquire the city-owned Margaret Martin Performing Arts Center and use it for film production and a school of cinema.

Jake Seal on Tuesday met with the mayor and Board of Aldermen to outline his vision for making the former school building and Natchez “a hub” for movie production. A “huge amount of money (could be) pumped into a small area,” Seal said.

Grennell said he’s “excited” about the potential economic impact of Seal’s proposition, but he and Natchez aldermen still have much to iron out as they decide how they can turn over the 90-year-old building to the TV-movie producer.

Seal is a principal partner in studios based in England and Louisiana that have been involved in the making of movies such as Rogue One and The Magnificent Seven, according to his online Linkedin page.

The Margaret Martin Performing Arts Center is currently the home of the Natchez Festival of Music. Seal indicated the festival could continue to be held in the building’s 650-seat auditorium while he uses it for his movie ventures.

The city has been struggling for years to find funds to renovate the aging facility, a state-designated historic landmark built in 1927 as Natchez High School. After the Natchez-Adams School District closed it, the music festival moved into the Gothic Revival/Tudor-style building in 1999. The city, festival organization and state Department of Archives and History have spent funds to maintain and repair the building. However, about $20 million more in renovations is needed, according to one estimate.

Prior to Seal’s presentation Tuesday of his plans, the mayor and aldermen closed the public out of their meeting to discuss what city attorney Bob Latham said was the potential sale of Margaret Martin PAC. They said a special board meeting might be held soon to further discuss it.

According to Seal’s Linkedin social network site, his work includes being a partner in Village Studios in Jackson, La., near Baton Rouge “in the heart of Hollywood South," where there is a sound stage, post-production and set-design facilities and “antebellum backdrops.”

Margaret Martin PAC is next to Dunleith, the antebellum mansion and estate that’s been up for sale for $6.9 million, according to the website of its New Orleans-based real estate agent, Peter Patout. | © 2014 | All Rights Reserved
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