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New York's studio building boom poses threat to LA's Hollywood production

Stephen Battaglio, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Business News

NEW YORK — Pat Swinney Kaufman may have enough ceremonial shovels in her office to start her own small construction firm.

As commissioner of the New York City Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, based above the Ed Sullivan Theater in Manhattan, Kaufman helped break ground on a number of new studios and soundstages to accommodate the TV and movie producers shooting in the region.

Next year, Sunset Pier 94 Studios will open on the West Side of Manhattan, adding six state-of-the-art soundstages blocks away from Midtown and the Theater District. In Queens, a new facility called Wildflower, backed in part by Robert De Niro, will add 775,000 square feet of stage space. And East End Studios, which has four soundstage facilities in California, is scheduled to open a new space in Sunnyside, Queens, in 2025.

“We are the creative and artistic capital of this country and we are very committed to building on that,” Kaufman said. “We want it to flourish.”

The aggressive studio expansions signal New York’s continued determination to double down on the film business and compete with its main rival, Los Angeles, for a bigger slice of the Hollywood pie — even as the industry is struggling to rebound nationwide.

Last year, the New York state legislature boosted the annual film tax credit allocation to $700 million, up from $420 million. It also raised the credit on qualified expenses (including actors’ salaries) to 30% (with an extra 10% for upstate productions) and accelerated the timeline for claiming credits — a big issue for producers.

 

The changes were intended to help the state better compete with other states such as neighboring New Jersey, which also is adding studio space and pulling work away from New York.

New York’s film industry grew rapidly after the state enacted its first credit in 2004. Production jobs grew at an average rate of 3% annually over the next 15 years — outpacing New York City’s overall job growth in that time and adding about 35,000 jobs, according to the mayor’s office.

But the dual strikes of the writers and actors last year brought production to a standstill at a time when the region was still recovering from the pandemic.

As in Los Angeles, work has been slow to return since the new labor deals were signed in the fall, creating some jitters in an industry that accounts for 6.5% of New York’s economy.

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