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Moon River Studios retreats from land in Effingham

Subheadline: 
Studio says it is still making a film despite financial trouble

  • File rendering of movie studio complex that was planned in Effingham County.
  • Moon River Studios
  • File rendering of the "leaf," an outdoor pavilion meant to host concerts for 25,000 people. It was part of Medient's plans to build a $90 million film studio in Effingham County.
  • File rendering of solar trees that were to light up at night and have waterfalls inside them.
  • File rendering of bridge that was planned over wetlands in massive movie studio project in Effingham County.

The notion that a massive movie studio complex will be built in Effingham County has come to an apparent end, with Moon River Studios signing paperwork to relinquish rights to 1,560 acres owned by the county’s Industrial Development Authority.

Authority CEO John Henry said Friday that Moon River has signed papers terminating a bond agreement for all of the property at Interstate 16 and Old River Road. That frees the land so the IDA can market it to other people.

Moon River had agreed in October to cut the amount of property it would use from 1,560 acres to 51 acres, but binding paperwork making that change was never signed.

“They have no ties to the land,” Henry said.

The company still could negotiate for 51 acres of the property, he said, but it would be on terms that are favorable to the IDA.

The IDA board has not voted on whether to accept the bond termination papers.

Jake Shapiro, chairman of the board of Moon River’s parent company, FONU2, said Friday that the company is “focused almost exclusively right now on the pre-production” of the horror film “Mara.”

Moon River finally filed its annual report with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Thursday. The report for the year ending Sept. 30 had been delayed because the company said it didn’t have money to pay auditors.

In the report, the company said its strategy is to “build a full-service film studio in Effingham County” subject to “financing, due diligence and approval by the board of directors.”

The report also said the company needs a minimum of $4 million over the next year, which would come from “institutional investors and other capital resources.”

“There can be no assurance that we will be able to raise capital if at all, upon terms acceptable to the company,” the report said.

For the year ended Sept. 30, the company earned revenue of $18,600 and had a loss of $6.4 million.

It is having difficulty repaying loans it has borrowed to operate, including one for film equipment from AppleBox Productions.

The report also said Roger Miguel, director and CEO, began drawing a salary of $4,000 a month in December while Shapiro and two other senior managers — Chief Financial Officer Graham Bradstreet and Chief Operating Officer Alice Neuhauser — began drawing salaries of $7,500 a month starting March 1.

Three years ago, when the company was headed by Manu Kumaran and known as “Medient,” it announced grandiose plans for a $90 million movie studio complex that would employ 1,000 people.

Afterward, new leaders of the company gradually scaled back plans.

Moon River has announced a number of projects that have not materialized. Among them were a documentary on James Brown and a two-picture deal with director Penny Marshall that was later canceled.

The company also has repeatedly announced hiring efforts, but the annual report filed Thursday said the company “has no significant employees who are not executive officers.”

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