The Birth of an Industry
Orlando’s Big Break
Hollywood East is a term originally used by the local press in Orlando, Florida in anticipation of the opening of the Disney-MGM Studios (now called Disney’s Hollywood Studios) in 1989 and Universal Studios Florida in 1990 in order to attract more filmmaking business to the region. While both were legitimate studios, they are predominantly theme parks, and although many film and television productions have used these facilities since before even the theme parks were built, Orlando was not able to retain the image of “Hollywood East.”
The “heyday” of production ran from roughly 1989 thru 2010. The closures of the Disney sound stages and backlot, to make way for what is now Toy Story Land and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, marked the end of the era for Central Florida. Universal’s sound stages, although they still exist, are used primarily for their Halloween Horror Nights event.
The decline of the Central Florida film industry has been blamed on multiple factors, but mostly due to increased film tax incentives in other states and decreased Florida tax incentives after the 2012 bankruptcy of Digital Domain which resulted in the closure of its taxpayer-subsidized Florida studios.
The “Hollywood East” documentary takes a look at the rise and fall of the Central Florida film and television industry through the creatives who were there. Through their stories, various producers, writers, editors, executives, and actors all share their version of what made Hollywood East great, what brought about its demise, and the lasting effects it has had on the region.