For many years, the entertainment industry has been thriving in states like California and Georgia. The word “Hollywood” itself is synonymous worldwide with the glitz and glamour of the silver screen. However, the traditional film and television industry as we know it is undergoing a transformation. The acceleration of various streaming platforms and the ever-increasing demand for fresh content has ushered in a greater need for readily available studio and soundstage spaces.
This has not only opened the door for the construction of new state-of-the art facilities, but it has created opportunities for studio development in new markets. With its wide array of available resources and existing infrastructure, New Jersey is emerging as a competitive market that’s open for business.
New Jersey’s rich film history
In the decades before Hollywood became its epicenter, the modern film and television industry grew its roots in the Garden State. At the end of the 19th century, the Kinetograph, one of the first motion picture cameras, was developed at Thomas Edison’s laboratory in West Orange, New Jersey.
With the ability to capture the moving image on film, Edison’s team constructed the world’s first film studio, Black Maria, on the grounds of his property. A decade later, Fort Lee was regarded as the first movie capital, and the first independent film studios were up and running. These early silent-era filmmakers understood the geographical resources available at their fingertips. Now, 130 years later, the industry is once again setting its eyes on the place where it all began.
Location, location, location
New Jersey’s strategic location between Manhattan and Philadelphia offers unique advantages to eager developers and filmmakers. Home to a diverse network of cultures, New Jersey is at the heart of the Northeast’s major infrastructural network, creating a dream scenario for production logistics. With an existing educated and experienced talent pool, filmmakers have found actors, writers, directors, set designers, camera operators, and other individuals working in the entertainment industry who have found their footing here. Many professionals are either New Jersey residents, or live in neighboring New York, Connecticut, or Pennsylvania, which helps ease production costs and relieve the need to fly in and provide accommodations for outside talent.
The State’s Motion Picture & Television Commission is looking to establish a film-friendly ecosystem with the rollout of a certification called Film Ready New Jersey. This program is designed to train and educate municipalities and local public safety officials on how to best accommodate incoming productions.
From Newark’s blue-collar neighborhoods to the cinematic boardwalk of Asbury Park, the Adirondack Mountains, and far and in-between, the New Jersey landscape provides countless locations that are ready to be captured by the moving image. A good number of these backdrops have rarely made their way onto film before and are far less overused in comparison to other states and cities. Quaint downtowns, urban centers, farmlands, suburbs, and beaches are all within a reasonable distance from one another.
New Jersey has done its homework
In 2018, New Jersey reinstated the state’s lapsed Film & Digital Media Tax Credit Program, with the intention of making it economically worthwhile for productions to create content in the state. These tax incentives provide companies with a 30-35% tax credit for qualified productions regarding both labor and film production expenses. It also includes a 2-4% bonus available for productions that make a conscious effort to increase diversity both onscreen and behind the scenes.
New Jersey as “East Hollywood”
In 2022, New Jersey had a record-breaking year. It’s estimated that “in-state” production exceeded over $650 million, more than any other previous year. About 600 projects were filmed in the state, including almost 100 features. This equates to about 3,000 total days spent shooting content, and thousands of new jobs created.
In the next few years, New Jersey is poised to have millions of square feet in available soundstage spaces.
- In Jersey City, Cinelease Studios is already up and running with Caven Point, which provides three large, purpose-built sound stages.
- In Bayonne, 1888 Studios is currently in the works to develop the former Bergen Point Texaco site. Once complete, this project will be the largest ground-up studio complex in North America.
- In Newark, Lionsgate, which is in development, will be the first project to take advantage of New Jersey’s tax incentive program.
These projects, among others, will be designed as flexible, large-scale, state-of-the-art facilities, with plenty of head room and open space for various types of productions.
In all, the state has made a conscious effort to set itself up for success. With initiatives like the Film & Digital Media Tax Credit Program and Film Ready New Jersey, the Garden State has made it financially feasible and logistically easier for eager production companies looking for space. These, plus the state’s infrastructure network, available talent pool, and soundstage facilities (either operational or ready to break ground), make it easy to see why a place like New Jersey has positioned itself to become the new epicenter of the entertainment industry in the northeastern U.S.
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