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Movie producers have new outdoor studio, reduces need for street closures

Kaufman Astoria Studios (iStock)

Dec. 4, 2013 By Christian Murray

Movie makers can now film on the streets of New York —without taking away coveted parking spaces.

On Tuesday, elected officials cut the ribbon on a new outdoor lot at Kaufman Astoria Studios—which will allow producers to shoot outdoor scenes in the convenience of a studio setting. The studio setting is viewed as less costly for producers—since old cars and other props don’t have to be moved—and it helps avoid problems such as inclement weather.

The outdoor lot, the first of its kind in New York, will also reduce the need for filmmakers to use local streets—thereby avoiding upset city residents peeved by lost parking spaces or over-the-top fans.

Officials say the outdoor studio lot will help make New York more competitive with Hollywood and will help draw the big production companies to the area. Outdoor lots are commonplace in Tinseltown.

“This is a gamechanger,” said New York Senator Charles Schumer. “We are telling Hollywood we can compete. Hollywood watch out.”

The outdoor lot is a 34,800 square foot space located on 36th Street– between 34th and 35th Avenues–in Astoria. The street was demapped by the city in 2011 and construction of the outdoor lot began this year.

The outdoor lot is a significant step for the arts and cultural corridor based around the studios — which include The Museum of Moving Image and Queens Council on the Arts.

The studios were once the home of Paramount Studios in the 1920s before the company moved to California. The US army held on to them until the 1970s. George Kaufman took them over 30 years ago—and since then they have produced billions in revenue for the city and thousands of jobs in Western Queens.

A number of big-name movies and television shows have been filmed at the studios in recent years, including “Men in Black III,” The Bourne Legacy” and “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.”

But the studios have received some help along the way. New York State continues to provide tax credits to lure production companies to shoot here.

“A decade ago the film industry was leaving New York and films about New York were being made in Toronto and Vancouver [where it was less expensive],” said State Sen. Mike Gianaris. “We got the tax credit through…which helped save the industry.”

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