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October 21, 2008

Hollywood, New York


Yesterday, we witnessed the groundbreaking of a new $22M, 40k SF Kaufman Astoria production studio, across from their main studio on 36th St, further stealing Hollywood’s thunder. Ever since incentives were offered to the TV and film industry to use NYC as a backdrop, filming and production in the city has nearly doubled. On hand: everyone from Mayor Bloomberg to Elmo, whose Sesame Street home has been at the studio since 1993.


EW Howell will take over as construction manager, but hitting the dirt here are NYC officials and execs: Former NYC Council speaker Peter Vallone Sr., Queens borough president Helen Marshall, Deputy Mayor Robert Lieber, Assemblyman Mike Gianaris, Mayor Mike, Elmo, Kaufman Astoria heads Hal Rosenbluth and George Kaufman, Governor's Office of Motion Picture and TV Development executive director Pat Kaufman, Mayor's Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting commissioner Katherine Oliver and NYC EDC president Seth Pinsky. Producers from shows like ABC’s Life On Mars and Showtime’s Nurse Jackie also joined officials from WFAN Radio for the celebration.


Officially dubbed Stage K, the studio will include an 18k SF stage for film and television production, along with 22k SF of support space (offices, dressing rooms and a carpentry shop). Expected to deliver next year, it was made possible by a $5M grant from the City through EDC, $2M in grant and loan assistance from the Empire State Development Corp., a $10M loan from Signature Bank, and equity from George Kaufman and Kaufman Astoria Studios. Janson Design Group is the architect; McLaren Engineering Group, the structural engineer; and CFS Engineering, the MEP engineer.


Filming recently wrapped at Kaufman Astoria for the remake of The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3, Mayor Mike’s favorite NYC-based movie. He says that the industry is responsible for $5B in economic development in the City, and the expansion will provide an additional 400 jobs. Even better, overall industry growth will help reduce the city's dependence on the financial sector. Plenty of famous productions have been filmed at the studios, including The Wiz, Sesame Street, The Cosby Show, and the remakes of The Stepford Wives, The Manchurian Candidate and Pink Panther. From left to right: Helen Marshall (who seems to have coordinated outfits with Elmo), Robert Lieber, Hizzoner, Elmo, Hal Rosenbluth and George Kaufman.


Kaufman Astoria Studios first opened its doors in the 1920s as Famous Players-Lasky. It was later renamed Paramount Studios and was the largest motion picture stage outside of Hollywood; however, Paramount moved its operations to California, and the U.S. Army took over until the 1970s, when it fell into disuse. Real estate developer George Kaufman stepped in to renovate and expand the now-National Historic Landmark.


Elmo also presented tokens of appreciation: the letter K to George and Hal, and a self-portrait card to Mayor Mike. No word on whether the furry monster supports extending mayoral term limits, however.

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