New York City has given the green light to Robert De Niro and his associates to construct a major new film and television studio on 19th Avenue in Astoria—something De Niro has sought to do for several years. The planning authorities have now given the final go-ahead so that construction can begin. And DeNiro hopes the new $600-million facility will be opening its doors in late 2023.
Described as the world’s “first vertical commercial film, television and creative studio,” Wildflower Studios—as the facility is to be named—will house 11 different sound stages on seven stories. The 145-foot-tall building, situated on a waterfront promenade that will be open to the public, will offer state-of-the-art facilities for the creation of motion pictures, television programs, streamed programs, augmented-reality and virtual-reality productions, according to presentations made by De Niro’s son, Raphael De Niro, to New York’s Department of City Planning.
Robert De Niro, a lifelong New Yorker, is developing the facility in association with his long-time collaborator, producer Jane Rosenthal; the Manhattan-based real-estate development firm Wildflower Ltd.; and the Danish design firm, the BjarBjarkeke Ingels Group. The 5.25 acre site, offering views of the Manhattan skyline, was purchased from Steinway & Sons, which will continue to make Steinway pianos at their factory next door.
De Niro’s goal is to lure more film and television production from Hollywood to New York, and that can only be a plus for New York-based actors. A brand new studio, created for the needs of the industry today, with state-of-the-art digital-production capability, will make New York more competitive in the world of film and television. De Niro hopes that this new studio, along with the nearby Kaufman Astoria Studios and Silvercup Studios (which are also based in Queens), will mean more work for actors, writers, directors, and all sorts of support personnel. And producers will find it easier to complete films in NYC.
I believe De Niro is right. With three large studios in Queens, a critical mass is forming. And the more films and TV shows are made in New York, the easier it becomes to get other producers to want to work here. That means increased work for many in New York’s theater community. And Hollywood’s traditional arguments for doing productions there—that they have the biggest, best, newest facilities, with a pool of experienced camera operators, lighting operators, editors, etc. to draw upon—become less compelling.
New York’s studios have provided good homes for various TV productions (from Sesame Street to 30 Rock, to Madame Secretary, to Sex and the City), but they haven’t often been able to attract major, big-budget motion pictures. De Niro and company hope to change some of that. And I’m all for it. We need to have facilities and support personnel here in New York that can compete with anything Hollywood has to offer. It kills me every time a film or TV production that is set in New York City (like, for example, the film version of Rent and then the subsequent live-television version of Rent) winds up being made on the West Coast instead of in New York.
De Niro, a longtime New York-booster, is doing his part to make film/TV production in New York more feasible. I hope he succeeds. The more film and television production there is here in the New York area, the better it is for everyone in the New York theater community.