Saturday, May 3, 2014

Kaufman Studios Plans New $24M Sound Stage in Astoria

Kaufman Astoria Studios, one of the largest film production centers on the East Coast, is about to become even larger. Construction on a new $24 million, 18,000-square-foot sound stage will break ground early next year. Stage N will be the studio’s eighth self-contained production facility.

Film and television production in New York City has never been stronger.

“With Stage N, we’ll be able to accommodate even more projects and continue to make New York the film and television capital of the world." Rosenbluth said.

“When you add them to the open-air back lot, and our music recording studio that can be used as a stage, that gives us a total of 10,” Studio President Hal Rosenbluth said.

“When you compare it to Warner Brother’s 40 stages, it seems small, but remember, Hollywood is an industry town. Being number 2 to L.A. is not such a bad thing.”

Steady growth has been part of a long-term plan to reinvigorate the neighborhood with the studio as an anchor. Last month, it was the centerpiece of the newly designated Kaufman Arts District, a 24-block area that contains the Museum of the Moving Image, the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts and the Queens Council on the Arts.

Men in Black 3, Goodfellas and The Wiz,  as well as TV shows like Sesame Street, Orange Is the New Black and Nurse Jackie have all been filmed at Kaufman Astoria Studios.

The studio was originally built by Famous Players in 1920 to provide the company with a facility close to the Broadway theater district.

Many features and short subjects were filmed here between 1920 and 1933. The two most famous movies to be shot here during that period are The Cocoanuts and Animal Crackers, the first two Marx Brothers films.  The first Sherlock Holmes sound film, The Return of Sherlock Holmes, was also made at the studio.

When Paramount Pictures moved all studio operations to California, the United States Army Pictorial Service took over the studio for the making of Army training and indoctrination films until 1971.

After the Army vacated the facility, the whole area was abandoned and overrun by vandals.

The property was designated a national historic district and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.

In 1982, the property was taken over by real estate developer George Kaufman and renamed Kaufman Astoria Studios, with the goal to make the studio a big part of the neighborhood and to facilitate growth in the area.

Further expansion may include hotels and residential buildings in the future.

“If we’re involved in residential projects, the arts district allows us to bring more traffic. That helps all the landlords and restaurants and all the small business owners,” Rosenbluth said. “All this is economic growth and it must be sustainable and we’re building on that.”
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