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Mayor Bloomberg and Kaufman Astoria Studios Break Ground for New Film and Television Studio in Astoria, Queens

October 20, 2008 - Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg today joined George Kaufman and Hal Rosenbluth of Kaufman Astoria Studios to break ground on Stage K, a new $22 million film and television production studio in Astoria, Queens. The 40,000-square-foot studio will be designed like studio compounds with “backlots” found in major West Coast motion picture studios. Construction of the new studio, which is estimated to create 400 new independent production-related jobs through film or television production companies leasing space within the studio, is expected to be completed in summer 2009. The announcement took place at the site of the new studio on 36th Street, between 34th and 35th Avenues in Astoria, across the street from the existing historic studio.

Also joining the Mayor at the groundbreaking were Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Robert C. Lieber, Mayor's Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting (MOFTB) Commissioner Katherine Oliver, Governor's Office for Motion Picture and Television Development Executive Director Patricia Kaufman, Economic Development Corporation (EDC) President Seth W. Pinsky, Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, Assembly Member Michael Gianaris, Former Council Speaker Peter Vallone, Sr., ABC’s Life on Mars Executive Producer Josh Appelbaum, the executive producers of Showtime’s new show Nurse Jackie, WFAN Radio Senior Vice President and General Manager Don Bouloukus and Vice President, Sports Programmer Mark Chernoff and Sesame Street’s Elmo.

“The importance of diversifying our economy is more obvious today than ever, and continued investments in New York City’s entertainment industry is one of ways we’ve been doing it,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “Since 2002, we’ve expanded our Office of Film, Theater and Broadcasting and made strategic investments in the industry. Under the leadership of Commissioner Katherine Oliver, those efforts are paying off. We’ve seen a 92 percent increase in shooting days since 2002, and today our film and television production industry generates $5 billion a year in economic activity and supports 100,000 jobs. Governor Paterson and the State legislature share our commitment to growing the industry, having recently approved an expansion of the State production incentive program. The $22 million expansion of Kaufman Astoria Studios will greatly bolster our efforts to grow the industry by providing much needed studio space. I look forward to seeing the results of the bright lights of Stage K on the big screen in the big apple.”

“Our efforts to grow New York City’s film and television production industry have led to genuine gains in entertainment-related jobs and economic activity and the demand for more studio space,” said Deputy Mayor Lieber. “The expansion of Kaufman Astoria Studios will help meet that demand. I want to thank them for their investment and confidence in the further growth of the industry in New York City and Film Commissioner Oliver, EDC President Pinsky and our State partners for helping to make the expansion happen.”

“The new 40,000-square-foot stage and support space secures Kaufman Astoria Studios as the preeminent choice of facilities for production companies,” said Kaufman Astoria Studios President Hal Rosenbluth. “It compliments everything we’ve constructed to date and is another chapter in realizing our vision for the studio as a complete complex.”

Stage K was designed by award-winning architect Janson Design Group, and includes construction of a 40,000-square-foot-facility. Stage K will feature an 18,000 square foot sound stage for film and television productions along with 22,000 square feet of support space that will consist of dressing rooms, offices, prop rooms, makeup rooms and a carpentry shop. The $22 million project was made possible through a roughly $5 million grant from the City administered through a funding agreement with New York City Economic Development Corporation, and $2 million in grant and loan assistance from the Empire State Development Corporation.

In 2002, Mayor Bloomberg tapped Katherine Oliver to serve as Commissioner of the Mayor's Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting (MOFTB) and expand and enhance film and television production in New York City. MOFTB created a comprehensive online presence on nyc.gov to allow film permits to be filled out online and to serve as a key marketing tool, with information for productions shooting in the five boroughs, production resources, tips for how productions can be green, and a monthly electronic newsletter. In 2005, Mayor Bloomberg and MOFTB created the “Made in NY” incentive program, providing a tax credit to qualified productions that shoot in New York City. When combined with New York State’s recently increased tax credit, qualified productions that shoot in the five boroughs can receive a 35 credit. Since 2002, there has been a 92 percent increase in shooting days in the City. Today, New York City’s film and television production industry generates $5 billion a year in economic activity and supports 100,000 jobs.

“Kaufman Astoria Studios has such a rich history, and we're thrilled to see the expansion of one of the first production studios in New York City,” said MOFTB Commissioner Oliver. “The expansion of Kaufman Astoria Studios will provide even more employment opportunities for New Yorkers who make their living working free lance in the entertainment industry here in the City. Last year alone, 245 films shot on the streets of New York, and currently there are thirteen primetime, episodic TV shows that call New York City home with more on the way. As more productions find a home at Kaufman Astoria Studios, the City will continue to benefit from this thriving industry.”

“Kaufman Astoria Studios is a New York City landmark and we are thrilled to have played an important role in helping them get to where they are today,” said EDC President Pinsky. “With the expansion of the facility, the Studios will generate new jobs; expand their production capabilities and further the reputations of Queens and New York as world centers of film and television.”

“The television and film industry is invaluable to New York State's economy,” said Empire State Development CEO & President Marisa Lago. “New York is one of the most desired and diverse filming locations in the world, with television and film production in New York employing more than 100,000 New Yorkers and contributing an estimated $7 billion annually to the State's economy. Studies confirm that film and television production is a historically recession proof industry. This powerful stand-alone economic engine bolsters other industries such as tourism, digital media, theatre arts and fashion. The expansion of KAS is great news for the entire state.”

“We’re thrilled to celebrate the expansion of Kaufman Astoria’s Historic Studio,” said Governor’s Office for Motion Picture and Television Development Executive Director Pat Kaufman. “Today, the film and television production industry are almost entirely driven by the availability and size of state incentives. Since tripling our incentives we’ve seen the amount of film and television projects coming into New York almost double. KAS’s expansion, along with the state’s newly enhanced tax credit incentive, means New York will continue to remain one of the world’s premiere locations for film production.”

“Astoria and Long Island City are already home to some of the best film-making in New York,” said Council Member Eric Gioia. “This expansion will continue the economic renaissance of Queens, and help ensure that New York remains the center of film and television production. In times of economic uncertainty on Wall Street, we need to diversify our economy and help lure good jobs like those in the film industry to New York City.”

“Today we break ground to expand the Kaufman Astoria Studios for film and television production,” said Borough President Marshall. “We also provide new job opportunities and growth for businesses in the area. The new Stage K will provide dynamic, new space that will rival that on the West Coast and become a magnet for the growing needs of the television and motion picture industry right here in New York City. I want to thank the private and public partners, Mayor Bloomberg and all those who helped to direct and produce today's presentation.”

Kaufman Astoria Studios first opened its doors in 1920 as Famous Player Lasky, which later became Paramount Studios. At that time the Studio was the largest motion picture stage outside of Hollywood and hosted such early film stars as Rudolph Valentino, Claudette Colbert, W.C. Fields, Gloria Swanson, the Marx Brothers, Sylvia Sydney and numerous others. Subsequently, Paramount Studios moved most of its operations to California, and in 1942 the U.S. Army assumed control of the facility and used it to produce military training films. The Studio remained an Army installation until the early 1970’s, at which time it fell into disuse. A not-for- profit foundation was later formed and dedicated its efforts to preserve the Studio’s original use. This foundation was instrumental in having the Studio site dedicated as an American Landmark by the U.S. Department of Interior. In 1980, George Kaufman, a real estate developer, was awarded the leasehold rights to the studio space and later renovated and expanded the facility.

Today, Kaufman Astoria Studios features six studios including a 26,040 square foot stage, KAS Music & Sound, K/A/S Lighting and WFAN all under one roof. Since 1920, it has been home to movie and television productions such as Angels In America, Bourne Ultimatum, The Cosby Show and is the long-time home of children’s favorite Sesame Street. The soon to be released movie, Pelham:123, has recently finished filming at the studio and ABC’s new show "Life on Mars" and Showtime’s new show "Nurse Jackie" are currently filming there.

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