Astoria: The East Coast’s Hollywood

BY JACKIE STRAWBRIDGE
Staff Writer

Kaufman Astoria Studios is one of the biggest film productions studios on the East Coast.

Kaufman Astoria Studios is one of the biggest film productions studios on the East Coast.

Residents walking down 30th Avenue in Astoria on Tuesday might have been treated to a sneak peek at the upcoming season of Netflix’s wildly popular show, “Orange is the New Black.”

As it often does, the show was shooting in the neighborhood – it was not the first time that residents could have passed by TV or film history in the making on their way to Bravo Supermarket or Katch Grill.

Astoria has been a host to some of the biggest names on the big and small screen since the early 20th century. Kaufman Astoria Studios, designated a national historic landmark in 1976, opened in 1920.

In its early years, Kaufman Astoria Studios was home to Paramount Pictures. More than 100 movies were produced there, including classic W.C. Fields and Marx Brothers films.

“The reason that Adolph Zukor decided to build the studio here in Astoria that would become Paramount Pictures was the proximity to the talent of Broadway and vaudeville,” said vice president of Kaufman Astoria Studios Tracy Capune. “Interestingly, it’s the same reason why Kaufman Astoria Studios is so active today, with productions like ‘Orange is the New Black.’”

“There is a tremendous wealth of talent – both on-camera and behind-the-camera – that is based here,” Capune continued. “It’s very convenient for actors and crew members alike to come here, do their work and then get home to their families and personal lives.”

Today, popular TV shows filmed or produced at Kaufman include not only “Orange is the New Black” but also “Nurse Jackie,” “Girls,” “Sesame Street” and “Alpha House.” Movies that have come out of the studio include “Men In Black,” “Eat, Pray, Love” and “Angels In America.”

Neighborhood blog We Heart Astoria has been keeping tabs on the area’s cameos in “Orange is the New Black” and other shows. To see their most recent rundowns, visit www.weheartastoria.com and select Arts and Culture.

Just next to Kaufman Astoria Studios and on the same campus, the Museum of the Moving Image sits at the nucleus of film history. The museum’s mission is to explore every phase of film production, examining technique, technology and promotion.

Besides screenings and exhibitions, the museum also brings big names in film and TV to the community with their discussion series. David Chase of “The Sopranos,” former NBC Universal executive Paula Williams Madison and critic Scott Foundas have all chatted with Astorians at the museum.

The Museum of the Moving Image has also participated in film history itself. During World War II, when Kaufman Astoria Studios was owned and operated by the U.S. Army, the museum building was used to process film and repair cameras. Artifacts from this period remain in the Museum collection to this day.

A number of other classic movies have been shot in and around Astoria. Keep an eye out for the neighborhood the next time you watch “The Wrong Man,” “The Cotton Club” or “Goodfellas.”

Reach Jackie Strawbridge at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 128, jstrawbridge@queenstribune.com or @JNStrawbridge.