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Film, TV production in NYC reached all-time high before pandemic, now recovering strongly

Production grew 9% per year in Brooklyn, report says

August 12, 2021 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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The Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment on Thursday released the NYC Film and Television Industry Economic Impact Study for 2021, showing that the industry has been recovering in a strong way since the height of the COVID pandemic. 

In 2019, the industry supported in total approximately 185,000 jobs, $18.1 billion in wages, and $81.6 billion in total economic output. During the past 15 years, direct jobs in the NYC television and film industry have grown at an annual rate of 3%, outpacing the city’s overall rate of 2%.  

In Brooklyn, movie, TV and commercial professionals’ favorite filming locations are Brooklyn Heights, Williamsburg, Greenpoint and DUMBO. According to an Eagle article from 2019, the neighborhood that saw the most film shoots for the previous year by far was 11222 (Greenpoint), followed by 11201 (Downtown-Heights-DUMBO-north Cobble Hill), 11217 (Boerum Hill-Atlantic Center) and 11231 (south Cobble Hill-Carroll Gardens-Red Hook).

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As far as production facilities are concerned, the Steiner Studios at the Brooklyn Navy Yard is the largest in the borough, and it plans to develop a new facility in Sunset Park.

Film crews and their trucks are filling the narrow streets of Brooklyn Heights once again. Eagle photo by Will Hasty

The new report arrives as New York City begins to recover from the pandemic, which highlighted just how important this industry is to the city’s identity, the livelihood of many New Yorkers, and the local economy. 

The industry was at an all-time high when COVID hit, with 80 series shooting in NYC as of the 2018-2019 season – which represented a 34 percent increase in episodic production since Mayor Bill de Blasio took office in 2014. 

Despite COVID-19’s impact, where TV and film productions were shut down from March through June of 2020, the industry has been coming back strong. Overall production has reached pre-pandemic levels, with at least 34 projects filming on the ground throughout the five boroughs by the end of August 2021.  

“This study acknowledges the unprecedented impact and leading role that the film and television industry has had on New York City’s economy over the past several years,” said NYC Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment Commissioner, Anne del Castillo. “As we build a future for this industry, we look forward to working alongside public policymakers, industry stakeholders and local communities in order to ensure continued, sustainable economic growth and job opportunities for New Yorkers.” 

A rendering of the Made in New York Campus’ planned film and soundstage facility in Sunset Park, to be established by Steiner Studios. Rendering by SYNOESIS

The industry is comprised of seven sectors that are directly responsible for 100,200 jobs (4 percent of all jobs in the city), $12.2 billion in wages, and $64.1 billion in direct economic output. The seven key sectors are motion picture and video production; talent; subscription programming; television broadcasting; advertising and media buying; postproduction and other services; and distribution and consumption. 

 Highlights from the NYC Film and Television Economic Impact Study include: 

  • The film and television industry has added roughly 35,000 direct jobs over the last 15 years, growing at an annual rate of 3% and outpacing the citywide job growth rate of 2% over this period. 
  • The motion picture and video production sector, the industry’s largest employer, grew at an annual rate of 5% between 2004 and 2019, outpacing the city average job growth rate of 2% over the same period, and accounted for 46,700 direct industry jobs in 2019. 
  • Television drives production spending and hiring in NYC, as TV series budgets continue to soar. Local spending and hiring by television productions that received that tax credit in New York City has increased year-over-year since at least 2015. In 2018, television productions receiving tax credits spent $2.6 billion and employed 167,000 locally. 
  • Jobs in the motion picture and video production sector grew at an annual rate of 9% in Brooklyn and 8% in Queens between 2001 and 2019 (compared to 3% citywide), reflecting in part the expansion of soundstages and production facilities in these two boroughs. 
  • Cable networks and subscription programming companies contributed over 40% of the industry’s direct economic output in 2019. Between 2012 and 2019, subscription programming’s output increased by more than 50%. 
  • Soundstages and production facilities are rapidly expanding to meet increased demand, to the benefit of formerly industrial neighborhoods and underutilized assets. NYC is home to about 60 qualified production facilities located in all five boroughs. 
  • New York State tax credit programs have been instrumental for industry growth and attracting industry activity to NYC. New York State’s Film Production Tax Credit has accounted for 75% of the direct industry jobs added since 2004. The Post-Production Tax Credit, introduced in 2010, spurred the growth of post-production jobs at an annual rate of 4%. 
  • Independent film thrives in NYC, distinguishing the city from other production hubs. Approximately 85% of filmmaking in New York City is independent, meaning that production is not funded by one of the industry’s major studios. 
  • NYC’s film and TV industry is integral to the city’s vast arts media and entertainment ecosystem, where tens of thousands of creative professionals enjoy a high crossover across all the arts and entertainment industries including theater, comedy, literature and design. 
  • The industry was disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic but recovery is underway.  The TV and film industry lost 25% of its jobs by Q2 2020 when compared to the prior year.

“The message from this report is loud and clear: New York City is THE place to source talent and produce film and television,” said Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development Vicki Been. “With $81.6 billion in total economic output, the film and television industry is helping drive the city’s comeback by providing a source of sustained economic growth and reliable employment for New Yorkers.” 

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