$100 million movie studio rises from ruins of former public housing site

NEWARK — Earlier this year, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka boarded an excavator and smashed the machine’s metal claws through the walls of the city’s first public housing complex. A crumbling brick wall. He promised that the long-abandoned apartment complex would be replaced with something better.

On Tuesday afternoon, officials are expected to announce a grand new vision for the 15-acre site: By March 2024, a pile of rubble in the center of a rundown neighborhood less than two miles from Newark Liberty Airport will be replaced by a $100 million television and A film production center with six large soundstages and spaces for sets, post-production editing, crew trucks and catering.

The project primarily serves as an economic catalyst for Newark, poor but developing city Located approximately 13 miles west of Midtown Manhattan. But it may also be the clearest sign of New Jersey’s emerging relevance in the film and television industry.

In recent years, companies struggling to meet the growing demand for streaming content have increasingly been drawn to and around New York City, an area teeming with actors and unionized labor. New facilities that opened last year in Hudson County, New Jersey, and Westchester County, N.Y., are regularly booked, and more studios are under construction, officials said.

One study estimates that the Newark project could bring as many as 600 permanent jobs and a host of new business opportunities to the city, largest in the state Population of 312,000 and median household income of less than $38,000.

“The bigger idea is for Newark to become a creative hub,” said John Schreiber, president and CEO of the New Jersey Center for the Performing Arts, a Newark-based cultural anchor who recently named developers for most of the sites.

Great Point Studios, which plans to build a production center primarily for Lionsgate, has created a 26 Oscar-nominated films 2nd year after purchase Starz cable operation 2016.

Robert Halmi Jr., chairman of Great Point, said he remains confident in the future of streaming despite news last month that Netflix lost subscriber First drop in ten years causing stocks to plummet Industry-wide due to concerns that the rapid growth of this model is unsustainable.

desire for originality stream media Mr Halmi said the content would live on. A soundstage that can be shot indoors through a green screen or using LED technology is very important.

“We can’t build studios fast enough,” he said.

Several large studios opened across the Hudson River in New York City last year Carney and Jersey CityDozens of productions have been filmed here recently, including award-winning films such as West Side Story, Joker and Army of the Dead.

bayonne planning committee 1.5 million square feet of production facility has been approved, 1888 Studio, on the site of an old Texaco refinery.plans are being made studio In West Orange, inventor Thomas Edison created the nation’s first movie studio. there’s still one Netflix The company still intends to submit a bid next month for the roughly 300-acre site at Fort Monmouth, a defunct Army base on the Jersey Shore, a spokesman confirmed.

“We already have resources in New Jersey — human resources,” said Andrew Muscato, a filmmaker living in Jersey City, where he produced parts of “The Greatest Beer Tour Ever Made.” . war drama based on a memoir It is expected to air on Apple TV+ later this year.

“Announcing more production facilities is like the final piece of the puzzle,” Mr. Muscato said.

It is Great Point’s second major production center in the region; Lionsgate Yonkers, a larger facility in Westchester County, NY, Opening in January.

In 2017, before New Jersey reauthorized tax cuts for the industry, directors making feature films spent $10 million statewide and TV creators $38 million. Last year, feature films pumped $194 million into the economy and TV shows contributed $247 million, according to the state’s Film and Television Commission.

“The industry has exploded here,” said Steven Gorelick, executive director of the committee. “No one could have imagined this kind of progress, so quickly.”

Each of Newark’s six soundstages is at least 20,000 square feet, a size considered large enough to attract business from popular production hubs in Georgia, New Mexico and California.

This has been the goal of Gov. Philip D. Murphy for years.

He traveled to California in 2019 to generate interest in New Jersey from Hollywood leaders.Two years later, he signed a law allowing companies to relocate or expand in New Jersey $14 billion in tax breaks; the legislation significantly increases the tax cut pool Companies establishing studios or films in the state will have access until 2034.

last spring, passed in Georgia Laws restricting voter accesswhen activists called for companies like Netflix, Disney and Warner Bros. to boycott studios there, the governor publicly tried to poach production operations from Georgia.

Recently, Mr. Murphy pointed out that Georgia is a Abortion may be banned If the Supreme Court overturns a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy, as expected, it would give producers and directors more reason to seek alternatives outside the state.

“Georgia has gone the wrong way on the values ​​that are cherished by a lot of talent and the people behind it,” Mr Murphy said.

It’s been decades since the community around Seth Boyden Court was considered an ideal place to live. One challenge during the demolition, building officials said, was relocating about 20 homeless people who returned nightly to the complex, which has been vacant since 2015.

But its location — “a stone’s throw from the airport” and less than 15 miles from New York City — is ideal for the actors, directors and crew who will eventually be at Lionsgate Newark , Mr. Halmi said.

“A lot of people live in Manhattan,” he said. “A lot of people want to sleep in Manhattan.”

In addition to the movie studios, New York City has authorized an independent company, Boraie Development, to build 200 homes for seniors on 4 acres of land and up to 200 market-rate apartments nearby, said Victor Victor, director of Newark. Cirilo Housing Authority said.

“We think we can really bring this community back to life,” Mr Cirillo said.

Downtown Newark has flourished over the years. But neighborhoods further from the city’s corporate center, like the Dayton Street area of ​​Plan Studios, continue to struggle. In addition to the funds it hopes to spend in Newark, the new facility, along with the Performing Arts Center, is expected to provide internships and educational programs for students in the city’s schools.

Projects that are “shiny and new” like Lionsgate Newark tend to ignore the real needs of Newark’s current residents, said Bill Goode, senior organizer of the HUD Tenants Alliance of Greater Newark.

He said developers should be required to replicate the same number of low-income housing units as Seth Boyden closed: 530. “Newark desperately needs low-income housing,” Mr. Goode said. “It should be a one-to-one replacement.”

He stressed that he was not against the development or the new jobs the project might generate, but said he Protect low-income housing of equal importance.

An economic impact study for the Performing Arts Center estimated that Lionsgate Newark would create 500 to 600 permanent live jobs and generate up to $800 million in economic activity. An analysis by real estate services firm JLL found that the bulk of direct spending is likely to be spent outside New Jersey initially.

But Newark and Essex counties in New Jersey “may develop cottage industries over time” to retain some of the fiscal gains, which would bring in about $180 million in state tax revenue over 20 years, the report said.

At least some of the new jobs will be for production assistants — junior workers busy breaking into a notoriously competitive industry.

For the past two years, Jody Brockway was NBC’s former vice president of films and miniseries, and he is now in charge of PA training campa vocational training company, has led seven weekend courses For associate production assistants in New Jersey, usually before a big shoot.

“This is where you start,” Ms Brockway said. “You work hard and work hard.”

The pay is low, but can lead to more permanent jobs, whether producing future shows or in a plethora of ancillary businesses.

“Once you have a studio,” she said, “now you’re building sets, now you’re hiring carpenters. You’re hiring painters. You’re hiring people to connect everything.”

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