At the Movies
What’s happening at Woodhill Cinemas?
BY KRISTINA ROSEN
When Woodhill Cinemas closed four years ago in September 2016, the tired venue had clearly seen better days. Crowds had long since drifted away as more upscale venues opened at Hamburg and Fayette Mall, while downtown maintained the classic charm of the Kentucky Theatre.
Once a neon-lit candy-colored mainstay of the local movie scene, it had fallen into disrepair, a faded echo of its former suburban glory. From its sticky floors and threadbare seats and faint smell of stale popcorn, it was difficult to imagine what the large but shabby and neglected space could be transformed into.
Wrigley Media Group CCO Ross Babbit, producer of Relative Justice, had an idea. With help from Kentucky’s Film Incentive, Wrigley was able to transform the abandoned Woodhill movie theater on Codell Drive into a state-of-the-art studio complex for production this summer.
When I walked into the Woodhill cinemas, it was like a lightbulb moment of knowing that would be the perfect place to house our show.
—Wrigley Media Group CCO Ross Babbit, producer of Relative Justice
The project created more than 300 jobs and will inject nearly $10 million into the Lexington economy.
“We weren’t sure exactly where we were going to tape the show,” says Babbit, who spent nearly six months scouring the greater Lexington area looking for the perfect space to build a set and launch production.
“I looked at airplane hangers, warehouse space, abandoned indoor trampoline parks—nothing quite fit the bill,” he continues, “and when I walked into the Woodhill cinemas, it was like a lightbulb moment of knowing that would be the perfect place to house our show.”
He adds, “We like to tell stories and entertain people. Why not come to a renovated theater to do that?”
Production just wrapped on Relative Justice, the new nationally syndicated reality court show filmed in front of a live studio audience/gallery.
All 150 original half-hour episodes were taped in Wrigley’s newly-built studio complex inside the former Woodhill movie theater on Codell Drive.
With production of Relative Justice completed, and 50,000 plus square feet of space available, Wrigley signed a long-term lease on the former theater with plans to renovate the entire building into a full-scale production facility under one roof that supports production from start to finish.
The theater will continue to retain that art deco, retro vibe of what the historic Woodhill theatre was before, but with modern updates of what a production studio needs.
And what they’re really excited about, Babbit says, is “continuing to build the infrastructure in Lexington to house Wrigley Media projects, but also working to recruit other companies to tape their projects in our space.”
Projects like this help to “keep our best and brightest in the state where they want to be and want to work, but don’t have the opportunity to do that.”
Wrigley CEO and owner, Misdee Wrigley Miller, says, “I am ecstatic that we are able to bring this level of production to Kentucky, thanks in part to the Kentucky Film Incentive program. Relative Justice is a project we are extremely proud to be launching, offering Kentuckians the unique opportunity to be involved in a show typically taped in Atlanta, Los Angeles or New York.”
Wrigley EVP Elizabeth Combs says, “We truly believe if you build it they will come because they will have a reason to come.”
Wrigely hopes to bring other productions—even those that have nothing to do with their company—to Kentucky. The goal is to offer a menu of options within this forthcoming state-of-the-art production facility.
Those looking for a place to make a movie or TV series can now find a home in our neighborhood.
Behind the Scenes: Relative Justice
Relative Justice “pulls back the curtain on family disputes, moving the drama from the dining room to the courtroom.”Every case pits one relative against another relative, trying to resolve some issue. Viewers are invited into a “very common and relatable situation – the family squabble.”“Whether it is borrowing the car and wrecking it, or going to a casino together and not sharing the money, or party damages,” says Wrigley EVP Elizabeth Combs, there was “a lot of real family drama in our studio this summer.”Cases are entertaining — and sometimes — emotional. And the show is very relatable. These are real families, these are real cases. Litigants are not actors. Combs says, “They came here from all around the country into Lexington to tell their stories.”With bringing in cast members and recruiting a production team from across the country, “The economic impact was absolutely clear,” Combs says.
Headquartered in Lexington, Wrigley Media Group conceives, produces, and distributes content from a state of the art 24,000 square foot studio. Relative Justice premieres September 2021.
This article also appears on page 8 & 9 of the September 2021 print edition of Hamburg Journal.
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