Michigan Motion Picture Studios

Private Investment Group
Pontiac, Michigan
535,000 square feet
Harley Ellis Deveraux

Disney was first to utilize this shiny new motion picture studio in 2012 to produce “Oz the Great and Powerful” with actors James Franco, Rachel Weisz and Mila Kunis. The director was Sam Raimi.

Walbridge constructed the full-service motion picture studio on the site of a former General Motors truck plant in Pontiac. Delivering a major studio on time and to the exacting specifications of movie-makers requires precision. At Michigan Motion Picture Studios (MMPS), the push for precision started with production of 65-foot-tall concrete wall panels in Grand Rapids, Mich., and their timely transportation across the state to Pontiac. The project team had to keep moving panels in and setting them up under a tight schedule that required placement of 12 to 18 panels per day. The panels, by the way, each weigh 85,000 pounds. Since movie studio interiors need to be column-free, heavy steel trusses and joists were required to support the massive walls and ceilings. Getting such sizeable pieces off the ground and set into place required pinpoint orchestration.

Michigan’s First Full-Service, Built-for-Production Studio

Walbridge served as construction manager for the $80 million complex, which was built in 10 months. It is comprised of 175,000 square feet of production space and 360,000 square feet of office space. MMPS’s two production buildings offer seven column-free sound stages with ceiling heights of 45 feet. Each has a full lighting grid and massive amounts of available electricity. The latest sound-suppression technology and materials were used to muffle even the slightest noise coming from equipment.

The studio’s design, created by Harley Ellis Deveraux, called for the use of 65-foot tall, precast concrete wall panels. These mammoth units were trucked in one at a time over 145 miles to the construction site. The Walbridge project team closely monitored production and worked around delivery delays to maintain a rapid installation schedule.

Since columns couldn’t be used inside the sound stages, crews utilized three super-deep and long steel trusses (11 feet deep by 110 feet long) and 243 steel joists to support the walls and ceilings. The joists weighed a combined 1,800 tons. Walbridge and its construction partners choreographed delivery from the manufacturer in St. Louis through on-time placement in Pontiac.

To minimize unwanted noise, Walbridge used custom-fabricated floor joist seats with neoprene pads in the spaces where mechanical and electrical equipment are housed. Special vapor barrier/sound-proofing insulation was installed on all exposed walls in the sound stages from floor to roof deck.

With more than 95 miles of electrical wiring running throughout the new soundstages, the studio has access to more electrical power than a nearby 990-bed hospital. And the amount of lumber used to build the massive lighting grids and catwalk systems, if laid end to end, would stretch for 75 miles.

More than 120,000 work hours were logged without a serious injury.