Lionsgate And Great Point Execs Size Up Progress Of Their New Studio Facility In Yonkers, A New York City Suburb Billing Itself As “Hollywood On The Hudson”
It isn’t just the proximity to New York’s top-shelf production community. It’s also the scale.
That was one of the topline points about Lionsgate Studios in Yonkers, NY made by Lionsgate Television chairman Kevin Beggs and Great Point Studios CEO Robert Halmi during a panel discussion held there Thursday.
“The overall trend is toward more” production, Beggs said, despite Covid and a pullback in streaming at a number of companies. (The looming WGA strike deadline got only a passing mention during the 30-minute conversation.)
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Since Game of Thrones raised the bar for cinematic, finely crafted episodic fare a decade ago, production timelines have lengthened and the need for square footage has increased. In New York, despite the addition of newer players over the years like Steiner Studios on top of legacy ones like Silvercup and Kaufman-Astoria, there is still a premium on basic amenities like street parking and, in some cases, the size of stages. “There is a shortage of big, purpose-built stages, particularly in the Northeast,” Halmi said.
Two of the stages in Yonkers are 20,000 square feet. Halmi said they were the fifth and sixth stages of that size built in the Northeast U.S., designed to capitalize on “big dreams and big shows” hatched in the wake of GoT.
The sprawling studio complex along the Hudson River opened in 2022, part of a major push into soundstage facilities by Great Point. The specialty investment fund, launched by producer and Hallmark Channel founder Robert Halmi and former media investment banker Fehmi Zeko, has built other sites in Newark, Buffalo and Atlanta. Lionsgate became anchor tenant in Yonkers when the facility opened, occupying seven of its 11 soundstages.
While scale is important, the specificity of shooting in New York is also a genuine need, Beggs said. One of Lionsgate. Access to dozens of highly credentialed crews at any given time is a big draw, he said, especially when the show’s story and aesthetic is rooted in the city. Mad Men, one of Lionsgate’s signature shows, was set to be produced out of LA for various reasons before the company came aboard the series. “We had to kind of get our heads around trying to shoot a show that was set in New York in LA, which makes zero sense at all. … Every time we were trying to cheat the Unocal building in downtown LA for any number of iconic New York sites, I was killing myself because we could have just gone to any street corner in New York and gotten it. In a new world, you would only do that in New York.”
Yonkers, the third-biggest city in New York state, has jumped on the opportunity to use Lionsgate Studios as a means of improving the city. The slogan “Hollywood on the Hudson,” spelled out in neon yellow lights behind Beggs and Halmi, is also printed on banners hanging around town. Mike Spano, who has been the city’s mayor since 2012, noted that the same high-ceilinged brick building where the event was being held was once the headquarters of Otis Elevators and the transition is aimed at reconnecting Yonkers with its roots and introducing a major employer into the local economy.
Halmi said the pending New York state budget will bump up tax incentives and the step-up could take effect in the coming days. That would vault New York into a “more competitive” situation with Georgia and New Jersey, he said, another reason for the investment in Yonkers.
The panel conversation was moderated by Eric Kohn, executive editor and VP of editorial strategy at Deadline’s sister publication IndieWire.
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