I was afraid of this.
Broken Hollywood dreams
City ready to bid Manex and movie hopes farewell
Wednesday, February 22, 2006
By LARRY HANOVER
Staff Writer


TRENTON -- Hollywood dreams often give way to cold reality.

And the capital city's dreams of becoming Hollywood East appear headed in that direction.

Mercer County officials have begun discussing plans to market to other developers a 7-acre site at Route 129 and Hamilton Avenue, directly across the street from the Sovereign Bank Arena, where Manex Entertainment planned to establish production facilities.

Manex has fallen behind on its mortgage payments to the Mercer County Improvement Authority, County Executive Brian Hughes said last night.

Manex, which has been trying unsuccessfully to turn abandoned steel factories into a $71 million cog in the film industry, recently received a notice of default for falling six months behind on its loan from the MCIA, agency Executive Director Phil Miller said last night. The payments total about $100,000.

Hughes said several developers have shown interest in the site. Their proposals include housing and a mix of other uses.

Unless Manex comes up with the money quickly, Hughes said, it will be time to seek new developers "expeditiously."

"I think Manex has had plenty of time and opportunity to move this project forward and hasn't been able to do it," the Democrat said.

Robert D. Prunetti, who was Hughes' Republican predecessor as county executive, lured Manex to the county and now serves as a consultant to the company. He said he could not comment without speaking to its principals.

Prunetti and Manex reached a deal in 2003 to convert Roebling Complex factories once used for spinning wire rope for the Golden Gate and George Washington bridges into space for movie equipment rentals.

Manex, which won an Academy Award for its special-effects work on "The Matrix," pledged to create 500 to 750 jobs.

But despite a groundbreaking attended by then-Gov. James E. McGreevey, nothing has happened at the planned Trenton Studios site except for the painting of the Manex logo on a water tower overlooking the South Ward.

Mayor Douglas H. Palmer last night said he would be willing to discuss other Trenton properties with Manex.

But he said he felt there was too much interest in the Roebling site to let the company hang on to it any longer.

At one point, Manex proposed putting housing on the site to propel its finances for the project, but city and county officials balked at altering the deal.

In 2004, a group of creditors who were owed a combined $2 million sought to put Manex into involuntarily bankruptcy, but the suit was settled.

Manex ran into financial trouble at its previous home in Alameda, Calif., as well, and virtually went out of business in 2001 when Warner Bros. pulled its contract to do special effects on Matrix sequels. It survived by extracting a financial settlement from Warner Bros., though it was never clear how much money, if any, Manex would ultimately reap from that agreement.

The company had solicited millions in state aid, but agreements for those commitments expired after a lack of progress.

County and city officials sold the Roebling property to Manex in 2003 for $2.5 million. The MCIA loaned all but $50,000 of the purchase price.

Miller said that Manex made the initial payment of $100,000 last July but hasn't made either of the two ensuing quarterly payments.

The authority is now reviewing the loan and redevelopment agreements to ensure it has the legal right to retake the property, Miller said.

So far, Manex has not contested the default notice, Miller said.

Because of the level of interest in the property, the MCIA would do a request for proposals that would be open to any developer, Hughes said.

"Unless Manex comes in tomorrow and says `here's all the back money and there's a business plan to get shovels in the ground' to show the process is moving forward, we want to (solicit proposals quickly)," Hughes said.

Palmer agreed but said there might be other sites that could accommodate the company's plans.

"Maybe there's other opportunities in Trenton," Palmer said. "I'll leave the door open for that. For this project, I agree with the county."
It has been quite a while where I thought this was a dead deal. Im hoping that Manex will come up with the money and start renovating the site, but I'm counting on it.

This was the original article when Manex first came to Trenton -

TINSELTOWN EAST: Deal makes ctiy right-coast movie capital
CHARLES WEBSTER, Business Editor
12/27/2002


Trentonians can once say with pride, "Trenton Makes, The World Takes" -- this time as the unofficial movie-making capital of the East Coast.

Manex Entertainment, Inc. will come to Trenton’s Roebling complex to set-up shop for producing Academy Award-winning films.

The deal will be made official with a contract signing during a 2 p.m. press conference todayat the Sovereign Bank Arena.

The bargain finalizes a process initiated 11 months ago to the day by Mercer County Executive Bob Prunetti in his "State of the County" address.

Prunetti is expected to be joined today by Gary Kucher, CEO of Manex Entertainment, Inc., and Trenton Mayor Doug Palmer to ink the deal that is expected to put Trenton on the entertainment map.

Manex Entertainment, Inc. is the parent company of the Academy award-winning Manex Visual Effects, which produced the special effects for such hits as What Dreams May Come; The Matrix; Mission Impossible 2; Vanilla Sky; and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

Manex will move into a complex of buildings on the former John A. Roebling’s Sons Company site across Route 129 from the SBA, where it will relocate its special effects division creating up to 1,000 new jobs in the area.

The deal will be finalized after months of agonizing negotiations that were expected to be finished last Spring.

A development deal struck with the Trenton YMCA to make the property into its headquarters and athletic facility slowed the contracts talks, but ultimately questions about Manex financing and environmental issues on the siteplayed a role in delaying the contract negotiations.

The YMCA has moved to the lot adjacent to the Roebling Building 3, the Arena Plaza, across from the SBA.

It plans to open a 65,000-square foot sports and health complex open by September 2003.

According to earlier reports, Manex will buy four buildings, close to 30,000 square feet, from the Mercer County Improvement Authority, for $1.25 million. The city and the county will split the bounty.

Prunetti has previously said that Manex will sink approximately $30 million into renovating the buildings over five years.

With the Manex deal complete after this afternoon’s press conference, the company will bring to the east coast the first industry of this kind.

"It is a great entree into the industry," Prunetti said of the Manex move, during his annual State of the County address to the Greater Mercer County Chamber of Commerce back in January.

To Prunetti, Manex is the wave of the future when it comes to moviemaking.

The studio of this century, he said, will concentrate on digitally created sets and not need the sprawling complexes of studios in California.

Manex estimates the move to Trenton will save it five percent on the cost of producing movies, a cost savings that will be very attractive to other studios and producers.

According to earlier reports, apart from an application for a state grant, Manex is not getting any money from the county or the city.