Lights! Camera! Action!
The new production facilities of United Artists in Baltimore opens for business today, more than a year and $2.5 million after the project was begun by the city's sole cable operator.
The state-of-the-art facility at the company's Kirk Avenue headquarters features a soundproof, full-service television production studio, post-production and editing rooms and a 16-channel audio system.
And, oh yes, there's also a dressing room for stars and would-be stars of the home-grown productions that will be filmed there, known within the cable industry as "local origination programming."
The name refers to any show produced at the local level -- be it by individuals, civic groups, government or commercial outfits.
Unlike public access television -- a la "Wayne's World" -- local origination programming has a price attached to it.
The new United Artists studio can be rented for a few minutes or a few days.
A half-hour stint in United's production facility starts at about $250. The same block of time at a network site would cost a minimum of $1,200, according to Marilyn Harris-Davis, a spokeswoman for United Artists in Baltimore.
Those fees do not include the cost of renting equipment and production crews.
Still, United considers its new facility a good bargain, given that it's the only place in the city where people can test out their ideas for new shows, Ms. Harris-Davis said.
"Baltimore's been waiting for this for an awfully long time," Ms. Harris-Davis said.
"It provides a wonderful opportunity for independent producers to get some visibility for their work at a reasonable cost."
United has a mobile production unit -- a bus outfitted with editing and production equipment -- that's been used for years to produce local origination programming.
Those local shows are aired on Channel 41 and include a weekly religious program, a restaurant review show and one that features news of interest to Baltimore's Polish community.