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The Movie Flop That Sank a Michigan Town

A Hollywood producer promised thousands of jobs for Allen Park
Jimmy Lifton, left, with Gary Burtka closes the clapboard slate signifying that the studio is a done deal on August 27, 2009 in Allen Park, Mich.
Jimmy Lifton, left, with Gary Burtka closes the clapboard slate signifying that the studio is a done deal on August 27, 2009 in Allen Park, Mich.Photograph by Ricardo Thomas/Detroit News/AP Photo

Jimmy Lifton was supposed to be Allen Park’s savior. He arrived in the Detroit bedroom community midway through 2009, shortly after General Motors and Chrysler declared bankruptcy. The metro area’s jobless rate was 15.9 percent, and officials were desperate to get residents back to work. Lifton, a Detroit native and president of Oracle Post, an audio and video post-production company in Burbank, Calif., had just the idea: He wanted to turn Allen Park into a movie-making hub.

The overture wasn’t as random as it may seem. Michigan had a nascent film industry thanks to a generous tax credit offered at the time; the state had lured Clint Eastwood to film Gran Torino and George Clooney to direct The Ides of March.