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Old Tucson prepares for incoming filmmakers

A new sound stage, more buildings planned for future use
Posted: 10:44 AM, Mar 02, 2023
Updated: 2023-03-02 12:44:31-05
Old Tucson Studios

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — They continue to make plans for expanding—even adding another street and row of buildings—for filmmakers.

Old Tucson, along with Mescal Movie Set, expect to see a boost to movie productions with these film incentives starting in a few weeks.

I spoke with the John Harper of American Heritage Railways Wednesday, the current lease holder at Old Tucson.

He says they're already hearing from filmmakers who say they're ready produce movies here in southern Arizona.

"I think it's going be a tremendous shot in the arm for the state of Arizona and something the state's needed for a long time," Harper said.

Harper is describing Arizona's film incentives, ready to begin in late March.

He says film production companies are ready to take advantage of the tax rebates, which can be up to 20% for a major motion picture.

"They are calling, Pat. You know it's nice to see that over the last 30 to 45 days the call volume has jumped," Harper told me. "People who want to come out and do location scouts and to look at what we have available, and potential opportunities."

Harper says he hopes Old Tucson can partner with other sites around southern Arizona to help further entice major film productions.

"To make sure people come to the state of Arizona to film, to get the jobs, to have the economic impact," said Harper.

Harper says he still wants to work with Pima County—the county still actually owns the Old Tucson site— to try and build a sound stage.

But the lack of a sound stage so far hasn't stopped filmmakers from lining up.

"We actually have active filming on site as we speak," Harper said. "We've got multiple folks that are lined up [in] May, June and July, we're trying to finalize some details with. I foresee that the filming aspect and the productions are just going to continue to develop and continue to expand in the state and, specifically in the Tucson area."

Harper tells me they're still going through the legal process to try and recover $300,000 from a company who failed to build a new set at Old Tucson.


Pat Parris is an anchor and reporter for KGUN 9. He is a graduate of Sabino High School where he was the 1982 high school state track champion in the 800 meters. While in high school and college, he worked part-time in the KGUN 9 newsroom. Share your story ideas and important issues with Pat by emailing or by connecting on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.