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Show-business veteran eager to relaunch Dallas’ South Side Studios

Steven Demmler says Texas is emerging as ‘the next hub of production the way Atlanta became one.’

To say Steven Demmler is enthusiastic about seeing the Dallas skyline in the same view as his South Side Studios might be an understatement.

The facility, long a fixture on what’s now Botham Jean Boulevard in the Cedars, is less than two miles from downtown. It’s a prime spot for a company that’s developing space for a large-scale film and TV production hub in a major market.

“It’s like a dream to be that close to downtown,” said Demmler, co-founder of Talon Entertainment Finance, a Florida-based company renovating the facility. “It’s an easier sell to say, ‘Hey, come stay at the Adolphus. It’s a five-minute Uber to work and home every night.’”


Talon finalized a deal with North Texas real estate developer Matthews Southwest to acquire South Side in early August, said Demmler, who wouldn’t disclose the purchase price. The facility first appeared on Dallas Central Appraisal District records in 1944 and has mostly functioned as a warehouse since then.

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Demmler hopes the renewal will put South Side Studios back in the discussion when the state’s newly approved film incentives kick in. In recent history, the facility was the backdrop for shows such as CW’s The Chosen, the Dallas (2012-14) reboot, and five seasons of USA Network’s Queen of the South (2016-21).

South Side will join a handful of studio facilities that are dotting the Texas landscape. In Mansfield, a 72-acre studio with soundstage clusters is planned. In San Marcos, plans are underway to build a $267 million film studio. In Bastrop, a 546-acre development will have 500,000 square feet of studio space.

“It’s an easier sell to say, ‘Hey, come stay at the Adolphus. It’s a five-minute Uber to work and home every night,’” says Steven Demmler.(Brandon Wade / Special Contributor)

“I view this as like some gem that needs to be polished, right?” Demmler said. “So we’re gonna polish it by putting in several million dollars to completely redo the space, starting in the interior. And then phase two is the exterior.”

Demmler plans to construct five soundstages, ranging in size from 8,000 to 25,000 square feet, to replace the existing soundstage.


The studio will be eligible for a 2.5% incentive bump from the state incentive program of $200 million boosted by Texas lawmakers this year, according to a release.

Is the film industry in need of this much production space in Texas?

If all of the studio projects were “up and active for the next three to five years, there will still not be enough soundstage space for the amount of projects being commissioned and shot,” Demmler said.

“It’s a function of how long it takes for them to get up and running versus the way streaming and content creation changed over time. In my estimation, there’s a three- to five-year window where kind of everybody can eat to their fill. And then after that, it’ll become more competitive.”

The studio will also have a post-production facility, production offices, a mill and a prop house. The facility will also feature two new virtual production studios, including a massive 270-degree wall and ceiling setup with complete tracking and robotic camera equipment.

“Property is expensive and refurbishing or rebranding or building from the ground up is really costly,” Demmler said. “The size is right. You can bring in most productions there. There’s a lot of flexibility, and I thought it just needed a little clarity of purpose and clarity of strategy.”

Starting as a teen living in Manhattan, Demmler said, he worked for several years at NBC’s Saturday Night Live, catching cue cards during production. He moved on to film projects, including being the executive producer for Bookworm, starring Elijah Wood.

Demmler said he has spent more than a decade working in finance. He has led the investment of millions into virtual production studios and traditional production companies in addition to film debt and equity, according to Talon.


Demmler and Tony Armer, commissioner for the Dallas Film & Creative Industries Office, learned of the facility’s availability in April. Armer came to Dallas from Florida and had worked with Demmler on projects. In Florida, Armer had credibility, ushering in the most productive era of the St. Petersburg-Clearwater Film Commission’s 30-year history. He’s also on the Talon board of advisers.

At the time of his hiring in October, Armer said he was “looking forward to engaging with the community and making Dallas a go-to destination.”

After Armer set up in Dallas, he contacted Demmler about the South Side’s potential.

“I said, ‘Steve, we need to get you to Dallas to come take a look at South Side Studios, I think there could be something we could do here.’”


Armer saw an opportunity and “even though it’s not what my company did at the time, he knew me enough to know that if he showed it to me, I’d get super interested in it,” Demmler said.

Demmler and Talon started the negotiations with Matthews Southwest and arrived with a deal in August. Demmler and Armer are eager to start the development.

“I’ve kind of bet my company’s future on South Side Studios because it’s far and away our largest and most concentrated investment,” Demmler said. “I think Texas is the next hub of production the way Atlanta became one.”

Armer said, “It’s just an empty warehouse now — a shell essentially, is what it is. It hasn’t been really designed for what productions need. So it’s really exciting, it’s going to be a huge game-changer.”