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©Gensler/Ryan Gobuty

A state-of-the-art film studio at the University of Hawaiʻi West Oʻahu that will transform the campus and have a major impact on the film and television industry in the state took a significant step closer to becoming a reality. UH has selected the Island Film Group team, a diverse group with local and national experience in film studio and commercial development and operations, as the project developer.

The Island Film Group team envisions a multi-purpose entertainment campus for studio employees and the UH West Oʻahu (UHWO) community consisting of a public-serving town square with live-work, retail, dining, lodging, and office space, along with a private, secured film studio that would include modern sound stages and other support facilities.

student sitting at computer
©Gensler/Ryan Gobuty

“This project is not only important for the local film industry and the state’s economy, it will also support our educational mission by providing our students direct workforce experience with industry professionals for mentoring, networking, internship, and career development opportunities,” said UH President David Lassner. “This initial step paves the way to unprecedented opportunity for Academy for Creative Media (ACM) students at UHWO and all our UH campuses as well as for the West Oʻahu region and the entire state of Hawaiʻi.”

The development team includes Island Film Group, SHM Partners, Hawaii Media Inc., and CR50 Production Ventures.

“We are excited to be a part of this next chapter in the growth of the Hawaiʻi film and television industry,” said Island Film Group co-founder Ricardo Galindez. “The new studio, along with our incredible local crew base, will allow Hawaiʻi to compete directly with production locations all around the world.”

The 34-acre undeveloped site is adjacent to the new Keoneʻae rail station, bus transit, and park-and-ride facilities. The studio location is bound by Farrington Highway to the north, Kualakaʻi Parkway to the east, the UH West Oʻahu campus to the south, and the Hawaiʻi Tokai International College campus to the west.

With this first step in the process, UH will now begin negotiating the terms of a development agreement and long-term ground lease that must be reviewed and approved by the UH Board of Regents. As part of the expected agreement, the Island Film Group team will design, build, finance, operate, manage, and maintain the project for the life of the long-term lease. Ownership would revert back to UH when the ground lease expires. The Island Film Group team was selected based on their response to the Invitation to Submit Proposals UH issued in June 2023.

“On top of the academic opportunities for our students, this project will dramatically change life at UH West Oʻahu, with the public square, retail and dining options, our campus will increasingly become a hub of activity,” said UH West Oʻahu Chancellor Maenette Benham. “We will look to build on the energy it creates and continue to grow as our community grows.”

“This is the natural next step in the evolution of the UH Academy for Creative Media,” said ACM Founder and Director Chris Lee. “Combined with our adjacent $37 million ACM Student Production Center at UHWO, this state-of-the-art studio complex will propel ACM to the top ranks of media schools globally. Because one of the requirements of this partnership is integration with ACM, our local students will have enormous career opportunities to stay in the islands with living wage jobs as talent both above and below the line. This combination will strengthen our vital production industry through workforce development and diversify Hawaiʻi’s economy away from an over-reliance on tourism.”

“This project is a game-changer for the creative media industry and film productions in Hawaiʻi,” said Lassner. “It will be one of the most significant steps in the state to create large numbers of high-quality jobs that will enable our students to thrive here in Hawaiʻi.”

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