DOWNTOWN — A new, independent movie studio with $500 million to spend is about to call Santa Monica home.

Monarch Pictures is currently in the process of assembling its executive team and selecting a studio head, a process which should take a couple months, said Marvin Silverman, the studio’s director of public relations.

The studio plans to take a “less is more” approach to their releases and will focus on developing mainly feature films.

“We are interested in the quality of our releases rather than the quantity,” said Mark Cohen, the managing director. “We would rather release four or five films per year that are top notch and profitable than a dozen films that are so-so.”

The privately-held film studio currently has an allotment of $500 million for production and distribution. More importantly, by funding their releases internally, the studio will retain creative control over all aspects of production.

Before deciding to base the studio in Santa Monica, however, its founders looked to other cities.

“We had several different options and some of them were out in Manhattan, N.Y.,” Silverman said. “As we went along, it became apparent that California as a state had more of the talent we were looking for.”

After scratching neighboring Culver City off the short list, the team settled on Santa Monica. “It was a perfect fit,” Silverman said.

The opening of Monarch Pictures in Santa Monica can be seen as a sizable economic investment, according to Jack Kyser, chief economist at the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp.

He said film studios often contribute to the local general economy; for example, set-building can benefit local hardware stores and the studio may have to turn to the local hotel industry to accommodate actors and other talent during filming.

“There has also been a lot of concern about runaway productions,” Kyser said. Independent film studios that are not backed by the deep pockets of larger studios may be more attracted to other states that offer financial incentives for doing production there, Kyser added.

However, the California Film Commission offers independent studios tax incentives for coming to the state.

“The state has had budget problems so hopefully they don’t decide to do away with incentives because, so far, the results have been quite positive,” Kyser said.

At the moment, Monarch Pictures is keeping its options open.

Silverman said that while the studio is focusing mainly on film, they are not completely shying away from digital work, either.

“We are definitely looking into different avenues,” Silverman said. “We feel that if the product is going to look fantastic, whether it’s in digital or film, then that’s all that matters.”

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