Author: gpseditor

Why New York and New Jersey Are Seeing a Burst of Soundstage and Production Facilities Construction

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By Gregg Goldstein

Bjarke Ingels Group Inc.

It seems you can’t aim a camera in New York or New Jersey these days without seeing a studio space that’s brand new, under construction or in the works.

Did you miss the Oct. 24 groundbreaking ceremony for the $350 million Sunset Pier 94 Studios, Manhattan’s first purpose-built studio campus with six soundstages totaling 85,000 square feet, opening in midtown in late 2025? No worries — there’s another on Nov. 15 for East End Studios’ $280 million Sunnyside Campus in Queens, with four stages totaling 91,250 square feet, set to be open in early 2025.

“Having an opportunity to build in Manhattan is like finding Bigfoot — a very unique situation,” says Sunset Studios head of global studios and production services Jeff Stotland. “We were fortunate to be able to partner up with Vornado [Realty Trust] because they had the ground lease on the piers.” The other backers are Hudson Pacific Properties, Blackstone and the New York City Economic Development Corp.

If you’re more impatient for a new facility, the $60 million Great Point Studios Buffalo, with three stages totaling 30,000 square feet, opens Nov. 18 upstate. And just last week, Fuse Technical Group and All Mobile Video unveiled an in-camera VFX / XR LED volume stage for cutting-edge visual effects at Manhattan’s Chelsea Television Studios.

But wait, there’s more! The under-the-radar Borden Studios, with four soundstages at around 56,000 square feet on the top floor of a mixed-use Queens building, opens in mid-2024. Just a 15-minute drive away, Robert De Niro’s $600 million Wildflower Studios will unveil 11 vertically built soundstages totaling 198,000 square feet in Queens next summer. “Everything that’s needed is self-contained in each unit, so there are 11 independent carpentry shops, office spaces, sound areas and hair and makeup areas,” says managing partner Adam Gordon.

Atlanta-based Electric Owl Studios plans to open a facility with six stages in Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y., in 2025. The CIM Group says it’s in the design/development phase for Panorama Brooklyn Studios, a 90,000 square-foot complex they expect to finish by late 2024. And Kaufman Astoria Studios CEO Hal Rosenbluth, who opened two new stages in August 2020, has designs for more that he hopes to develop with his studio’s new owners Hackman Capital Partners next year.

Why the big boom? It’s partly because a big increase in production spurred by streamers led facilities like Silvercup Studios to operate at capacity before the pandemic, prompting many to build new stages or expand. “As a real estate developer, I know that retail [space] was in the toilet, office buildings are suffering and industrial [spaces] softened a lot,” says Steiner Studios owner Doug Steiner. “The only thing that was good nationally during the pandemic was production, so we attracted capital.” And with New York State tax credits returning to 30% and the annual cap increasing to $700 million for qualified productions in Gov. Kathy Hochul’s latest budget through 2034, incentives have never been greater.

Robert Halmi’s Great Point Studios, which launched Lionsgate Studios Yonkers just north of New York City in January 2022, is laying the foundation for Lionsgate Newark Studios, a $200 million facility with five stages that will open by March 2025. “Lionsgate is our anchor tenant and has the entire facility,” Halmi says. “Because they’re signing leases of 10 years or longer with a studio, they get a tax credit bigger than others who shoot in New Jersey.”

And Netflix, which opened a massive facility in Brooklyn in July 2021, has about three years to complete a due diligence and local approvals process before committing $848 million for a facility on the former Fort Monmouth Army base in Oceanport, N.J.

Two new studios have opened in Kearny, NJ., in the past two years. Palisade Stages offers 23,000 square feet of studio space, while 10 Basin Studios boasts a 36,000 square feet soundstage and is looking to partner with a virtual production expert to house a new high-tech operation there. For now, the largest purpose-built New Jersey production facility is Cinelease Studios — Caven Point, which has run three soundstages totaling 67,400 square feet in Jersey City since August 2021. And it could get bigger: Cinelease and its partners are working with the local community to complete a six-soundstage facility adjacent to the current one that would double its existing footprint.

All of this new competition is part of what’s spurring New York City studios to expand their footprint. Steiner Studios is adding two stages to its enormous 30-stage Brooklyn Navy Yard campus, set to open in less than two years. And owner Steiner is finalizing permits for what he calls “Steiner Sequel,” a $600 million facility in Brooklyn. He expects construction to be completed by early 2027.

Brooklyn’s Cine Magic East River Studios, which opened two stages in late 2021, bought property for its Cine Magic LIC Studios in Queens and expects to start building three new stages there by spring 2025.
Newer studios are boasting cutting-edge technology like LED stages and volume (a.k.a. LED volume) stages. Though the terms are often used interchangeably, the editors of the new “Visual Effects Society Handbook of Virtual Production” say an LED stage only has one or more LED walls with no camera tracking abilities, whereas a volume stage has both. The latter, used for shows like “The Mandalorian,” projects sets and/or vistas onto LED walls so the camera can move around actors for a 3D effect, creating an immersive experience.

Queens-based Carstage, which opened two years ago, has a 10,000-square-foot LED stage used mostly for creating images in moving car windows, but occasionally uses camera tracking and has begun doing non-automotive shoots. XR New York, based just north of New York City near Nyack, has a volume stage boasting a 45-foot curved LED wall. And the newly opened Chelsea Television Studios space has a 22 X 24 foot stage and a curved 35 X 15 foot LED wall that can expand into a volume stage.

As the industry awaits the end of SAG-AFTRA’s strike and the restart of many productions, there are a few clouds on the horizon. Much of this boom was fueled by unprecedented demand for content more than four years ago. But with streamers like Netflix scaling back, fewer orders for adult scripted series and today’s uncertain economic future, it’s unclear how many planned stages will open for business. Final financing on one northern New Jersey studio hasn’t closed, despite its projected start of construction in early 2024. Another ambitious studio planned for southern New Jersey also hasn’t been fully financed. And when a few planned studios like Panorama were asked if funding for their facilities was completed, reps did not reply to requests for comment.

And, as Kaufman Astoria’s Rosenbluth puts it, “If interest rates go from [around] 7% to 10% next year, there’s not going to be a lot of construction going on for anybody.”

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New Lionsgate Studios Atlanta Rising In Latest Partnership With Robert Halmi’s Great Point

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By Jill Goldsmith

Lionsgate continues to expand its production footprint, this time as anchor tenant with naming rights to the new 500,000 square-foot Lionsgate Studios Atlanta.

The 40-acre, $200 million complex in Douglas County (the site of some location filming for The Hunger Games) will be up and running in late 2023. About 16 miles from Atlanta center and 25 minutes from the Atlanta Airport, it will include 12 large sound stages, office and support space, a back lot and parking for 400 cars and 100 trucks. Owned and operated by Great Point Studios, Robert Halmi’s film and television infrastructure group, it will offer a full set of production services on site including grip and electric, equipment, props, set building, restaurants, location catering, cleaning service and security.

“Lionsgate Studios Atlanta becomes our third state-of-the-art production complex with proximity to a major metropolitan area, allowing us to continue to scale our film & television production operations, create hundreds of local jobs and invest in regional economic growth,” said Gary Goodman, the company’s EVP of Television Production. “In response to continued strong demand for our content, we’re pleased to partner with Great Point Studios and The State of Georgia to extend our studio facilities production footprint to metro Atlanta.”

Lionsgate Studios Yonkers, a sprawling complex on the Hudson River just outside NYC, opened in January of 2022. The one-million square foot project, also developed by Great Point, is adding sound stages and support space as it expands. The partners, along with the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, most recently announced a $125 million+ project on 12 acres in Newark, the first purpose-built studio in New Jersey specifically constructed for TV and film production.

Halmi, founder of the Hallmark Channel and producer of over 400 film and TV projects, has been raising facilities to meet the needs of an evolving entertainment industry in relevant locations amid an ongoing crunch for studio space, which never remotely caught up with the streaming-fueled boom in production — regardless of any slower growth the industry may be seeing now.

“The state of Georgia has seen a record year in terms of film and television productions. With the rising demand for production facilities, a studio location in Atlanta was an ideal next step for our partnership with Lionsgate as we continue to bring best-in-class production facilities to the East Coast,” said Halmi.

Georgia’s tax incentives, first passed in 2005, have become the most generous in the country and continue to aggressively attract production to the state, making it a global hub.

“When the pandemic struck, we worked hard in Georgia to communicate with our partners in the Georgia film, TV, and streaming industries. Together, we forged a safe and appropriate path to allow the film industry to return to operations and deliver Georgia Made productions to eager consumers all around the world,” said Gov. Brian Kemp. “Because of this partnership approach and the resiliency of our state’s film and television infrastructure, we are once again enjoying incredible growth and investment from industry leaders like Lionsgate and Great Point Studios. These projects will support hardworking Georgians and ensure that we are a top producer of television shows and feature films for years to come.”

Lee Thomas, Director of the Georgia Film Office noted, “From the early years of the film office, Georgia has had a great relationship with both Robert Halmi Jr. and Robert Halmi Sr. in their roles at Hallmark Entertainment and Robert Halmi Productions, and we are excited to begin this next chapter with Robert Halmi Jr. and Great Point Studios. We are thrilled that Great Point Studios has chosen Douglasville for this exciting project, and we look forward to partnering with Lionsgate on film and television projects for decades to come.”

The project is being developed by a joint venture of Great Point and its institutional partner, an affiliate of private investment firm Lindsay Goldberg. Great Point Studios, founded by Halmi and longtime media and entertainment investment banker Fehmi Zeko, has been expanding into new studio investment/management businesses in North America and the U.K.

The Atlanta studio initiative was shepherded for Lionsgate by its CFO James Barge.

Rendering/Great Point Studios

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