FOX 32 NEWS - One of the largest soundstage lots outside of Hollywood is located in Chicago. It takes up more than a million and a half square feet on the city’s West Side that used to house steel warehouse buildings.
"We have 30 sound stages, which make us one of the largest film studios in the world,” said Alex Pissious, president of Cinespace Chicago Film Studios.
Empire, Chicago PD, Transformers and the Divergent movies are only a handful of TV shows and films that tape at Cinespace.
It's one of Chicago's best kept secrets, yet it covers more than 52-acres on the West Side.
"Since we opened up in 2011, we've created 7500 jobs in Chicago and we've generated a little over 3 billion dollars in revenue for the state,” Pissious said.
And hundreds of those jobs are going to people in the community that Cinespace calls home: North Lawndale. It’s an area mostly known for high crime and poverty.
Pissious took over the company when his uncle, Nick Mirkopoulos, passed away. It’s a family business with a goal of not only bringing film to Chicago, but also investing in neighbors.
"I believe he is changing lives,” said Alderman Michael Scott. "When you think of North Lawndale and when people are reporting, they are reporting on drugs, gun violence or something negative. This is something that is very positive."
Empire is just one of seven TV shows currently being taped at Cinespace, and now, Cinespace is in talks to bring three more major feature films to Chicago next year.
Meet Omar, Joe and Godfreed. Omar works on Empire, Godfreed on the Exorcist and Joe is a director/editor and partner.
"They gave me the opportunity and chance and I took it,” Omar said.
"Thinking back to where I came from and where I'm at, it's a huge difference,” Godfreed said.
"A kid like me coming from North Lawndale,” Joe said. "And now here I am helping build it."
Cinespace is continuing to grow. The long term goal is to eventually make it a back lot where more filming can be done and tourist can come from all over the world to enjoy Hollywood in Chicago and boost the economy in the neighborhood.