NEW ORLEANS -- As red and green lights flashed from the ceiling, a woman on stilts walked through heavily decorated rooms.
Dancers on Carnival floats moved to a DJ’s beats, as food was served and spirits flowed. At the front of it all, women in feather headdresses and skirts made of champagne glasses greeted guests at the end of a red carpet.
Blaine Kern, Jr. pulled out all the stops Thursday night as he officially opened New Orleans Event and Film Studios inside a Mardi Gras landmark: the former Mardi Gras World in Algiers.
“What you're actually standing in was a montage of tin roof and frankly, a lot of tin buildings,” said Kern.
In about one year, Kern transformed a former warehouse where iconic Mardi Gras floats were created and stored into an event center and an important part of New Orleans’ growing film industry.
“Are there bigger studios? Yes. Are there some that are as adaptable? I'd like not to think so,” said Kern.
“We're a full service creative facility,” said Thomas Conrad, president of New Orleans Motion Picture Studios, which owns the film production side of Kern’s new venture.
The 80,000 square foot building, which is divided into event space and sound stages, fills a vital gap in a blossoming industry, said Conrad.
“Right now in the film industry, there's so little sound stages that all the films that are coming into town are finding just literally any space that they can find just raw warehouses, dirty warehouses,” said Conrad.
“This is vital to what the film industry is competing with in Los Angeles,” said K.T. Schoenhals, assistant production office coordinator for a reality television show that will be filmed in the building.
Thursday night, crews were building a set for the reality show. For privacy reasons, Eyewitness News was asked not to disclose details of the production.
A music video was being shot in another room. And about half a dozen other productions were gearing up to use the venue as well, said Conrad.
“There's so many movies coming here what we're trying to do is basically accommodate them and help them,” said Kern.
Film was a roughly $660 million industry in New Orleans in 2012, a nearly 25 percent jump over the year before, said city officials.
And with Oscar contenders like Django Unchained shot in New Orleans, officials say the city is making a name for itself as a movie hub.
“We're in the big leagues, we make big films, for big distribution and big recognition,” said Scott Hutcheson, Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s adviser for cultural economy.
And Kern hopes his new studio will continue to be a part of it. The Kern family hopes to eventually build apartments near the new studio.