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Hollywood North? Wayans bros. envision movie studio and theme park on ex-Oakland base; Nacho's up for a plum gig -- not mayor; plus, more on the mayhem at KPFA.

By Will Harper
East Bay Express (June 8, 2005)

Comedy siblings the Wayans brothers have traveled to Oakland a couple of times over the past few months to meet with city officials and scope out sites for a Universal Studios-style development, but with a more urban flava. The brothers, led by In Living Color mastermind Keenen Ivory Wayans, are eyeing seventy-some acres at the defunct Oakland Army Base.

"Their plan would certainly put Oakland on the map," says Councilman Larry Reid, who has been working with the brothers and their business rep. Reid says that the brothers envision a theme park and a movie studio where they and other filmmakers could shoot future flicks. Reid also noted that the brothers haven't asked the city for anything like a subsidy or free land.

The Wayans brothers have shopped around the idea to other cities with large African-American populations, such as Atlanta. Even though groundbreaking in any city is probably years away -- certainly before White Chicks 2 goes into production -- Reid says Oakland needs to put this on a fast track so other cities don't lure the brothers away. "It's a once in a lifetime opportunity," he says. "If we lose this opportunity it's going to be some other city's gain."

Over the past six years, various development ideas have been floated for the army base but have gone nowhere, such as an eco-friendly industrial park and an Indian casino. Reid and others are hopeful that the Wayans brothers' idea doesn't suffer the same fate as those earlier proposals. But there are obstacles to getting a deal done in Oakland.

The Wayans' reps want Oakland to enter into an exclusive negotiating agreement with them -- but City Council President Ignacio De La Fuente points out that Opus West of Arizona has "first right of refusal" over any development proposals at the army base. That basically means the builder can put together its own offer to counter anything the brothers propose.

Kay Carney, a spokeswoman for the Wayans family, says the brothers have been impressed during their visits to Oakland. "They liked the cultural diversity," she says. "They liked the fact the fact this is a city that could really benefit from this." She says they want to bring the film industry to Oakland, a kind of Hollywood North where urban youth could join apprenticeship programs: "They've really developed an affection for the city."

Reid and De La Fuente said the Wayans theme studio will be aimed toward people of color, but Carney insisted that the development wouldn't just be a black thang. Because the proposal is in its embryonic stage, she didn't know what kind of attractions the family have planned. Feeder, however, has a couple of suggestions: Patrons could play Where's Chappelle? instead of Where's Waldo? Look, Chappelle's in the nuthouse. Wait, no, he's in rehab. No, no -- he's in South Africa! Okay, bad idea. Next item, please.





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