New York City’s film and television industry generated $64 billion in direct economic output in 2019, $12.2 billion in wages and 100,000 jobs, and production – led by TV – is ramping back to pre-pandemic levels, according to film commissioner Anne del Castillo and an extensive new study commissioned by her office and released today.
Including its indirect impact, the industry generated $18 billion in wages and $81.6 billion in economic output, according to the 84-page study, the most extensive in some time, that tracks NYC film and television broadly over 15 years through 2019 — a high point with 80 television shows and 300 feature films. State tax credits introduced in 2010 and the rise of streaming have reshaped the business.
After a brutal 2020, TV production was one of the first industries back to work in the city and continues to advance.
“On average, we have the same number of shows pre-pandemic. It’s really busy. We have 34 or more projects filming in August in TV, and we are starting to see some feature films coming back,” del Castillo said in an interview with Deadline. “My hope is that the report shows people what we had, and what we are working back towards. The industry has an impact that is beyond itself.” She leads the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, or MOME.
The numbers come amid myriad political changes in New York. Democratic mayoral candidate Eric Adams looks set to take over for outgoing Bill de Blasio after November elections. And, in a shocker, Governor Andrew Cuomo – regarded as a friend to the industry — announced his resignation earlier this week after sexual misconduct allegations. Lieutenant Gov. Kathy Hochul takes the reins on August 24.
She’ll be the city’s first female governor, which Castillo heralded, otherwise declining comment on upcoming shifts in city or state administrations and potential impact on film and television. The industry’s economics say it all, she noted.
“From a very practical standpoint, what this study does is show the return on investment from production. The state tax credit is $420 million. There is a ton of production happening outside of the city in neighboring areas, as well as here. It is $82 billion in economic activity – $60 billion is direct activity. So $60 billion from a $420 million investment is a pretty good return. It’s really hard to beat.”
The tax credit currently runs through 2025. The report may serve as a handy tool for lawmakers when it comes up for renewal.
The film and television industry as per the report includes: motion picture and video production; talent; subscription programming; television broadcasting; advertising and media buying; postproduction and other services; and distribution and consumption.
Motion picture and video production in 2019 provided 46,700 jobs (47% of the direct industry total), $4.7 billion in wages (39% of the industry) and $14.9 billion in economic output (23% of industry output). Subscription programming provided the biggest chunk of output, at 43% — up by 50% from 2012. Its jobs are the highest paying in the industry, with an average annual wage of $222,000, more than double the citywide average, due to the concentration of corporate execs and staff at companies in the city.
The study sources data on film and television productions from New York State Empire State Development (ESD) which found that about 90% of in-state spending by credit-eligible projects occurs in NYC and that it’s been spreading across the five boroughs. In 2019, 88% percent of jobs in motion picture and video production were based in Manhattan, down from 96% percent in 2001 as Brooklyn and Queens in particular experienced considerable growth. Between 2001 and 2019, motion picture and video production jobs grew across the city at an average annual rate of 3% percent, with a 9% growth rate in Brooklyn.
Shifts in television production models have buoyed the business in NYC, as in other production hubs. Between 2015 and 2018, there were fewer than 50 pilots in NYC receiving tax credits, the report said, compared with the production of almost 200 full television seasons receiving the credits. The new model minimizes seasonality and uncertainty that was once inherent to television production.
“The production of more full seasons year-round has helped create more consistent, high-wage employment opportunities in the sector… When HBO debuted Boardwalk Empire in 2010, its production budget seemed extravagant, with $20 million for the pilot and $5 million for each subsequent episode. “Television shows produced since then make earlier budgets look modest,” it said, citing high-production-value period dramas like The Deuce ($12 million per episode), The Get Down ($11 million per episode) and Vinyl ($7 million per episode with a $30 million pilot).
The shift is one reason TV spending has well outpaced film, which is largely independent production. In 2018, 78 film productions receiving tax credits in New York City spent $389 million and hired 34,000 locally. Some 70 television productions spent $2.6 billion and hired 167,000 locally. The average film production in 2019 had a local spend of $4.5 million, the average television production $34 million.
The biggest budget television series in NYC since 2015 include The Get Down Season 1 (and only), with $149 million in NYC spending and 5,500 hires; Gotham, Season 2, at $111 million and 4,800 hires; and Vinyl, Season 1 (and only) at $105 million and 5,400 hires.
As NYC production grows, so does competition for soundstage space. Established operators and newcomers, namely production companies, are increasingly opening new soundstages to keep up with demand, the study notes. As of 2020, NYC was estimated to have about 1.8 million square feet of QPF capacity, with significant growth underway. Projects include:
- Silvercup North: 115k sf, 295 Locust Avenue, Bronx, opened 2016
- Broadway Stages: 67-acre Arthur Kill Correctional Facility, Staten Island, opened 2017
- Broadway Stages: 23.5k sf, 45-10 19th Ave, Astoria, plans announced 2020
- Broadway Stages: 180k sf, 277 Monitor Street, Brooklyn, opened 2016
- Kaufman Astoria: 150k sf addition, plans announced 2019
- Steiner Studios Made in NY production facility: 500k sf, Bush Terminal, Brooklyn, plans announced 2020
- York Studios (new studio): 170k sf, 1410 Story Ave, Bronx, plans announced 2019
- Netflix production facility (new studio): 131k sf, 333 Johnson Ave, Brooklyn, plans announced 2019 • Wildflower Studios (new studio): 650k sf, 87 19th Ave, Astoria, plans announced 2019
A handful of recommendations closing out the study urged NYC “to continue to evaluate the city’s soundstage capacity and demand and explore future expansions as needed.”
It also gave a shout out to New York City’s independent movie theaters, which “are core to the city’s artistic community.”
“They are important distribution venues for early-career artists and help attract talent to the city. However, the pandemic has put these theaters in a financially precarious position. The City could explore opportunities for promotional and awareness campaigns to help these theaters regain their audience.”
Read the full study here.
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