New York's Steiner Studios, among the biggest soundstages outside California, could expand significantly in the coming years, according to a report today by Julie Satow in the New York Times.
The studio's expansion plans could transform its home, the Brooklyn Navy Yard, into one of the major centers of movie production in the country.
The expansion would more than double the size of 8-year-old Steiner Studios, adding 328,000 square feet to the existing 300,000 square feet on the lot with a back lot for shooting New York streetscape-style exteriors, space for media offices, and classrooms for the study of film and entertainment
The project is expected to take 12 years to complete and cost $400 million, $35 million of which is slated to come from New York State and New York City government coffers, pending final approval. The announcement is the latest thrust in the state and city's campaign to make movie and television production a central part of the regional economy.
"When Mayor Bloomberg came in, he wanted to diversify the economy and make it rely less on Wall Street," Marybeth Ihle, press secretary at the New York Mayor's Office for Media and Entertainment, told The Huffington Post. "We see it as a sector of the economy that offers good jobs. It's good for other businesses -- there are about 4,000 ancillary businesses that rely on film productions, from lumber yards for the construction of sets to fabric shops for costumes."
The state started offering tax incentives to film productions in 2004; the incentives have since increased several times, most recently in July, when New York tripled its tax-incentives for post-production film work. The past few years have seen many states around the country competing for film productions by cutting taxes -- but New York's rates remain among the lowest in the country.
In terms of attracting productions, the tax breaks seem to have worked. A report by the Boston Consulting Group, released in May, indicated that New York's filmed entertainment sector grew by 70 percent between 2002 and 2012, and now generates about $7.1 billion a year. Twenty-three television shows were filmed in the city in 2011 and 2012 -- up from seven in 2002.
Ihle said that filmmakers are so eager to work in the city that soundstage space has become one of the major limiting factors to such work -- even though Steiner is just one of 100 production spaces in the city. As such, she said that Steiner's expansion is sorely needed.
"We're almost at capacity in terms of studio space," she said. "When the pilots were filming earlier this spring, there was a scramble to figure out where they could film."
Four TV shows, including HBO's "Girls" and "Boardwalk Empire," already use Steiner Studios as their home base, and dozens of movies and commercials film there for shorter periods of time. It's unclear as yet how the expansion will affect overall production capacity; the majority of the space will be dedicated to offices and classrooms. But the Times story said that the plans call for more than 100,000 square feet of new stage space, including the back lot for exteriors and a state-of-the-art underwater studio, presumably in the East River.
Steiner Studios is the largest tenant in the Navy Yard, which was originally opened in 1781 and was the construction site of the first steamship in the U.S. Its tenure as a military manufacturer ended in 1966, but it's recently been resurrected as a mecca for small-scale light industry in the city.