Netflix Reveals Plans to Develop East Coast Production Facility in New Jersey

All roads in Hollywood appear to be headed to the Garden State.

Governor Phil Murphy and Netflix have announced that the entertainment company will develop an East Coast production facility on the former Fort Monmouth campus in Monmouth County, New Jersey.

The move will transform a property that has been largely vacant for more than a decade and is estimated to create more than 1,500 permanent production jobs and more than 3,500 construction-related jobs in New Jersey, according to the Netflix press release. Netflix reported it plans to commit $848 million in capital investments to develop the more than 292-acre parcel, adjacent to Route 35 in Eatontown and Oceanport, into 12 state-of-the-art soundstages totaling nearly 500,000 square feet of new development, with the remainder of the property slated for redevelopment with supporting film uses and several community amenities. 

“This transformative investment will serve as a cornerstone in our efforts to create a thriving industry from whole cloth,” Governor Murphy said in a statement. “As a result of nearly a billion dollars in film production spending, New Jersey will further solidify its status as an emerging national leader in the television and film industries. Additionally, Netflix’s substantial direct investment will stimulate job creation and spark an entirely new ecosystem of housing, hotels, and ancillary businesses and services, bringing with it countless additional jobs and boosting the regional economy.”

The announcement follows Lionsgate’s investment as the majority tenant in a branded studio under construction in Newark. Lionsgate Dec. 21 was honored with New Jersey’s first-ever “Studio Partner” designation for its pending 253,000-square foot production facility.

New Jersey, like Georgia and California, has increased tax incentives to Hollywood movie and TV show production since 2018 under a push by Gov. Phil Murphy. Netflix’s original zombie movie Army of the Dead was largely filmed in New Jersey.

Netflix’s largest U.S.-based production facility is based in Albuquerque, N.M., where “Breaking Bad” was filmed.

“Since the beginning of this Administration, it has been a top priority of ours to build New Jersey’s film and television industry. It is so exciting that our state has just added another force to its ranks with the addition of Netflix’s production facility at Fort Monmouth,” First Lady Tammy Murphy said in a statement. “This announcement comes with a promise of opportunity to the residents, business owners, workers, and many others across our state. Not only will the facility generate thousands of new jobs, but it will also bring increased economic activity to our local and small owned businesses, ultimately leaving a lasting, positive impact on our great state’s economy well beyond this Administration.” 

“We’re thrilled to continue and expand our significant investment in New Jersey and North America,” Ted Sarandos, Netflix co-CEO and chief content officer, said in a statement. “We believe a Netflix studio can boost the local and state economy with thousands of new jobs and billions in economic output, while sparking a vibrant production ecosystem in New Jersey. We look forward to working with Governor Murphy, his administration and local leaders to finalize this deal in the months ahead. We thank the FMERA Board and their staff for selecting Netflix as the winning bid and for supporting our mission to create a state-of-the-art production facility at Fort Monmouth.” 

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Netflix’s plans for a sustainable, integrated film studio campus will be completed in two phases over the course of several years, according to the press release. The first phase of the project will include the construction of 12 soundstages that will range in size from 15,000 square feet to 40,000 square feet each with a minimum total buildout of 180,000 square feet and a maximum buildout of 480,000 square feet. Additional and ancillary improvements may include office space, production services buildings, mill space, and studio backlots, among other uses customary to the film industry, with the potential for consumer-facing components, such as retail and consumer experiences.

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“Netflix’s decision to make a major investment in New Jersey is crystal clear evidence that Gov. Murphy’s commitment to building a thriving film and television industry in New Jersey is working. New Jersey is the birthplace of film, and under Governor Murphy’s leadership our state continues to be a place where production companies thrive,” NJEDA CEO Tim Sullivan said in a statement. “This project marks an extraordinary next chapter in the redevelopment of Fort Monmouth following the devastating closure of the base in 2011.”

The announcement follows the authorization by the Board of the Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Authority (FMERA) of a Purchase and Sale & Redevelopment Agreement with Netflix for the property. The Board approved the decision at FMERA’s Dec. 21 board meeting. Netflix was one of four applicants that submitted proposals in response to a Request for Offers to Purchase (RFOTP) issued by FMERA on March 8, 2022, with a deadline of June 6, 2022. Netflix received the top evaluation score, according to the release. The deal now enters a due diligence period and local approvals process before being finalized. 

Netflix will pay $55 million for the parcel, including a utility contribution of $5 million and the FMERA office relocation fee of $3 million, per the terms of the RFOTP. 

“Our team is incredibly passionate about Fort Monmouth’s revitalization, and is committed to surpassing the Fort’s prior role as a major economic driver in the region,” FMERA executive director Kara Kopach said in a statement. “A project of this scale has the potential not only to create thousands of jobs, but will also result in significant investment on the Fort, and spur local development in support of the project. The magnitude of Netflix’s investment is an absolute windfall for our stakeholders and the State of New Jersey. We’re eager to see this project come to fruition.”

The parcel that will be developed by Netflix contains former residential, administrative, and R&D buildings, warehouses, workshops and additional general-purpose facilities in the Boroughs of Eatontown and Oceanport, within the Main Post section of Fort Monmouth.

“The closing of Fort Monmouth was a devastating economic blow to our region, one from which we continue to strive to overcome,” Senator Vin Gopal said in a statement. “The Netflix plan to develop a production facility on the fort’s campus in Monmouth County, creating both permanent production jobs as well as construction jobs, will be a welcome boon to our economy. I want to commend both NJEDA and FMERA for their tireless work in promoting the economic potential of the region, and for bringing back the commercial vibrancy of the Fort Monmouth area. This Netflix redevelopment will certainly play a starring role in that continuing revitalization.”  

“New Jersey was the birthplace of the modern film industry, so we’re glad Netflix is helping to bring it back to its roots with this major investment in people and production facilities here in Monmouth County,” Senator Declan O’Scanlon said in a statement. “This is truly exciting since the redevelopment of Fort Monmouth to ensure it fulfills its massive potential has been a goal of so many of us for so long. I want to thank everyone who was part of this collaborative, bipartisan effort including the Governor, the Fort Monmouth Economic Redevelopment Authority, Tim Sullivan and the EDA staff, the Monmouth County Board of Commissioners, and the Oceanport and Eatontown local elected officials. Job well done!”

“My fellow Commissioners and I are honored to have been in long time discussions with Netflix, along with County Administrator Teri O’Connor, and we thank them for acknowledging the County’s role as a partner in this tremendous undertaking. The County looks forward to continuing to work with Netflix and FMERA to bring this project to fruition and we stand ready to support them with all of our resources,” Monmouth County Commissioner Director Thomas A. Arnone said in a statement. “This project is vital for the future of Monmouth County as it will bring thousands of jobs to our surrounding municipalities.”

“A little over a decade ago, Oceanport’s most important economic and social driver, Fort Monmouth, closed. When the Fort shut down, jobs disappeared, families moved away, and an empty, barren, Fort Monmouth served as a constant reminder of what we had lost. From a redevelopment standpoint, however, what has transpired over the past six years or so in the Oceanport section of Fort Monmouth has been nothing short of remarkable. Netflix’s arrival allows for an incredibly advantageous and creative re-use of this property and will serve to restore a great deal of economic vitality and social energy to Oceanport and Monmouth County at large. Oceanport is thrilled to be part of this proposed redevelopment and we look forward to participating with Netflix in the continued economic and social revitalization of Fort Monmouth” Oceanport Mayor Jay Coffey said in a statement.

“The Borough of Eatontown is excited to participate in what is most likely the largest and most complex redevelopment project in the State. While nothing can fill the emotional void left by the closing of Fort Monmouth, this project will provide a strong economic boost to the region and attract an exciting and vibrant industry to the area,” Eatontown Mayor Anthony Talerico Jr. said in a statement.

“The Netflix Revitalization at Fort Monmouth is great news for local residents, businesses and the members of the Monmouth & Ocean Counties Building Trades.  Congratulations to all for making this happen,” Thomas De Bartolo, president of the Monmouth & Ocean Counties Building & Construction Trades Council, said in a statement. 

“We are excited about this announcement and the economic opportunities both in the construction and operations of Netflix. It will be a great economic engine for the citizens and taxpayers of central New Jersey for jobs and economic growth,”  Wyatt Earp, president of the Monmouth and Ocean Counties AFL-CIO, said in a statement.

“The announcement that Netflix will develop Ft. Monmouth into facilities that will gainfully employ so many IATSE members is great news,” Matthew D. Loeb, IATSE International president, said in a statement. “We are appreciative to Governor Murphy and the State of New Jersey for its commitment to the industry, and look forward to providing safe, skilled technicians and artisans for Netflix long into the future.”

“Netflix’s arrival in the State of New Jersey is a boon for the hard-working men and women of the Building Trades. Together, we’ll build studios and sets that will rival the world and show exactly what New Jersey has to offer,” William T. Mullen, president of the New Jersey Building & Construction Trades Council, said in a statement.

“New Jersey continues to illustrate that it is the ideal location for corporations seeking to grow their business. This is a win-win because it grows the local economy and creates quality union jobs in the  construction sector and the film and entertainment industries,” Charlie Wowkanech, president, New Jersey State AFL-CIO, said in a statement.

Lionsgate Awarded First-Ever ‘Studio Partner’ Designation by State of New Jersey

The New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) Dec.21 announced the awarding of its first-ever Studio Partner designation to Lionsgate, which is set to occupy 253,000 square feet of the 350,000-square foot Newark production facility. It will be the first studio in New Jersey specifically constructed for TV and film production. The partnership between Great Point Studios, Lionsgate and the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) was first announced in May.

The facility, which is slated to be completed in 2024, will be owned and operated by Great Point Studios, after approval by the NJEDA board.

The first series reportedly set to begin its second season production in the still unfinished facility is original Starz show “Run the World.”

Starz original series, “Run the World”.

The studio is funded in part by the New Jersey Film and Digital Media Tax Credit Program, which  provides a credit against the corporation business tax and the gross income tax for expenses incurred to produce certain films and digital media content in the state.

The Studio Partner designation awarded to Lionsgate is one of only three available under the tax incentive program and will allow the studio to capture additional above-the-line wage and salary costs as qualified expenses. Above-the-line wages and salary are payments made to highly paid individuals like directors, producers, writers and performers.

The studio partner may also petition for tax credits for above-the-line wages and salary expenses of up to $15 million, $25 million, $40 million or $60 million depending on the amount of qualified film production expenses involved in the project. In addition, $100 million of the allocation for film and digital media tax credits is set aside for studio partners like Lionsgate.

As the facility’s long-term anchor tenant, Lionsgate received naming rights to the studio, with Great Point Studios operating the facility and the NJPAC managing public affairs and community relations, including the creation of educational programs and internships for Newark high school and local college students.

Governor Phil Murphy’s active encouragement, in addition to the recently passed legislation on film and television incentives, were instrumental in attracting Lionsgate to New Jersey.

The Lionsgate Newark project sits on the former site of the Seth Boyden housing complex in the South Ward section of Newark. When completed, the complex will include five production stages ranging from 20,000 to 30,000 square feet and will offer a full set of production services on site, including grip and electric, equipment, props, set building, restaurants, location catering, cleaning service and security.

Once fully operational, initial projections anticipate more than 600 new full-time jobs will be created, generating more than $800 million of annual economic impact for Newark and New Jersey.

“This is a wonderful development for the many entertainment industry workers and performers in New Jersey and for the state itself,” Great Point Studios co-founder Robert Halmi said in a statement.

“This is a great day for the entertainment industry and for the people of Newark, who will reap immense benefits from this investment in career and educational opportunities,” added John Schreiber, CEO of NJPAC.

Lionsgate Partnering on Movie, TV Production Facility in New Jersey

Lionsgate May 17 announced it has partnered with Great Point Studios, a studio investment/management business specializing in film and television infrastructure, and The New Jersey Performing Arts Center, for the creation of a 12-acre, $125 million production facility in Newark.

The facility will be owned and operated by Great Point Studios. As the facility’s long-term anchor tenant, Lionsgate will receive naming rights to the studio. NJPAC will manage public affairs and community relations for the studio and create educational programs and internships for Newark high school and college students.

The facility will be the first purpose-built studio in New Jersey specifically constructed for TV and film production. It will be located in Newark’s South Ward at the site of the former Seth Boyden Housing site, which is located near Newark Liberty International Airport, the Port of Newark, NJ TRANSIT, the PATH system, and several major highways. Operations are expected to begin in late 2024.

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“This is a great opportunity to scale our East Coast studio footprint with our partners … to support our robust film and television production,” Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer said in a statement. “Lionsgate Studios Newark is also an important part of our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, enabling us to create hundreds of jobs, provide educational opportunities to local students and contribute to the economic revitalization of the South Ward of Newark.”

Indeed, Lionsgate had 14 new television pilots picked up for series last year, while 16 current series were renewed for additional seasons. Lionsgate also produced 21 feature films in 2021 despite ongoing pandemic conditions affecting production.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said the facility would provide jobs for more than 14,000 qualified union members in the region.

“The introduction of the Lionsgate Newark Studio not only promotes the economic vitality of our state, but also provides good jobs and access to opportunity for all South Ward community members,” Murphy said.

Great Point Studios founder Robert Halmi, founder of the Hallmark Channel and a producer of more than 400 film and television projects, said the 300,000 square-foot complex would include production stages ranging from 20,000 to 30,000 square feet, offices, support space and parking for 400 cars and 65 trucks.

The facility will offer a full set of production services on site, including grip and electric, equipment, props, set building, restaurants, location catering, cleaning service and security. It is anticipated to create more than 600 new long-term jobs, with priority for positions going to residents of Newark, and generate more than $800 million of annual economic impact for Newark and New Jersey.

“Given the rise in studio production post-COVID, we are confident that expanding our studio program into New Jersey will be a welcome addition,” Halmi said.

Warner Bros. ‘Tenet’ to Get Early Theatrical Release in Select Cities

Warner Bros. Aug. 18 announced it would release Christopher Nolan’s espionage thriller Tenet on Aug. 31 in select cities with re-opened theaters. The much-anticipated movie, along with Disney’s Mulan, is seen as a catalyst to jumpstart the exhibition business following months of closure due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Warner Bros. is proud to support our partners in exhibition as they reopen their doors. And there could be no better film to welcome audiences back to a true big-screen experience than Tenet,” Jeff Goldstein, president of Warner Bros. Pictures Domestic Distribution, said in a statement.

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With Disney moving Mulan to premium VOD in September, Tenet is now the go-to theatrical release for exhibitors hoping to instill a sense of normalcy to the the cineplex. Warner is launching the movie in Canada on Aug. 27.

But early screenings of Tenet will have little impact on the film’s box office without the contribution of California, New York and New Jersey markets. All three states remain up in the air regarding theatrical re-openings. And a New Jersey judge just ruled against major chains AMC Theatres and others re-opening screens in the Garden State.

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“It’s the level of risk,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said in an Aug. 17 media conference. “If you look at our metrics, we started with the most essential business that posed the least risk. And then it was the gradation to the least essential businesses that posed the most risk. I am sure there is a whole group of people who say, ‘I cannot live without going to the movies.’

“But on a relative risk scale,” Cuomo continued, “a movie theater is less essential and poses a high risk. It is congregant. It is one ventilation system. You are seated there for a long period of time. Even if you are at 50% capacity with one or two seats between the two of you, this is a risk situation and movie theaters are not that high on the list of essentials.”

Theater Group Sues New Jersey to Re-Open Screens

The National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO), including AMC Theatres, Cinemark and Regal Cinemas, has filed a lawsuit against New Jersey Gov. Philip Murphy and Judith Persichilli, acting commissioner of health of New Jersey, for their legal mandates keeping movie theaters shuttered due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The suit, filed July 6 in U.S. District Court for the Court of New Jersey, alleges the state and Murphy are acting “unconstitutional and unlawful” by allowing certain businesses and places of public assembly to reopen, while requiring movie theatres to remain closed.

“COVID-19 represents a serious public health risk, and plaintiffs support fair and reasonable actions by the government to address that risk,” read the complaint. “However, the government-mandated total closure of movie theatres is neither fair nor reasonable, and is instead a violation of plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights of freedom of speech and freedom of expression, equal protection of the laws, due process under the law, and is a ‘taking of property’ without just compensation.”

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NATO contends movie theaters have been unfairly shutout of the government-mandated business re-openings, which include churches, museums and libraries, which are allowed no more than 100 people or 25% of capacity.

“Shopping can be done outdoors or virtually … [but] shopping malls have been allowed to reopen,” read the complaint.

NATO claims there is no “rational basis” for the distinction Gov. Murphy has drawn between places of worship and movie theaters, both places of public assembly.

“In fact, many churches lacking a building of their own, or lacking the capability to safely host religious services during this period, hold their religious services in movie theatres,” NATO said.

The trade group said operators nationwide are spending millions of dollars incorporating sanitization protocols, ticketless admissions, no-contact concessions and air purifiers for planned re-opening by the end of the month. New Jersey is one of the few states that has not yet allowed theaters to re-open.

The suit seeks unspecified financial damages (besides legal fees), asking that NATO’s members be treated in the same manner as comparable entities under the governor’s orders, and be permitted to reopen as other comparable places of public assembly have been allowed to.