Competition to host television and film productions is intensifying and New York City could soon gain an edge over Los Angeles. Construction on the city’s first outdoor sound stage is expected to move forward, and with the industry already pumping record amounts of money into New York, there are signs of an East Coast resurgence.
Television production, in particular, is starting to blossom, which could lead to more regular work for New York’s actors. Thirteen pilots were shot in the city this season, according to the Mayor's Office of Media and Entertainment. “On the TV side, you see more jobs that are reoccurring and lasting,” says Chris Coffey, a spokesman for the mayor’s office.
Coffey cited new television shows like HBO’s “Girls” as signs of the city’s ability to attract productions. “There are so many shows that are like that, where New York plays an enormous character role,” he said.
Television and film production now employs 130,000 people in New York, an increase of 30,000 in the last eight years. Movies like the soon-to-be-released “The Dark Knight Rises” and “Men in Black 3” were also shot in New York instead of in California. “We compete with Hollywood,” Coffey said.
Los Angeles has long been a more attractive production location because of its expansive studio campuses. There are reasons why CBS' "CSI: NY" and AMC's Madison Avenue-set "Mad Men" are filmed in L.A. instead of New York. California's tax structure and access to talent is part of what keeps productions based on the West Coast. But one of the state's tax-credit programs expires next year and legislation extending it is stalled in the state Legislature.
In New York, meanwhile, officials have approved a plan for Kaufman Astoria Studios to build the city's first L.A.-style outdoor sound stage. The project has political backing from Sen. Charles Schumer, one of the top Democrats in the Senate, but is awaiting approval from the National Parks Service to go ahead. “By building the city’s first ever outdoor studio lot, we can attract film and TV clients that would otherwise have to choose Los Angeles,” Schumer said during a press conference last week.
And the outdoor studio isn't the only industry-related project in the city. Kaufman Astoria has already spent $23 million on a new indoor film and TV studio, according to Crain's New York Business. And Steiner Studios recently cut the ribbon on five new sound stages, adding 45,000 square feet to its facilities at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
The increase in studio space won’t dry up the number of outdoor filming permits the city gives out, Coffey said. “All of these studios are filled to capacity and permits are being given out all the time. This is a boom time.”