Sesame Street’s Grover joins elected officials and Kaufman Studios representatives at the backlot’s ribbon cutting on Tuesday. Photo by Ira Cohen
BY TRISHA SAKHUJA
Astoria residents will see many more famous faces from Hollywood now that the newly-built outdoor backlot at Kaufman Astoria Studios is complete.
To celebrate the occasion, many local and State officials, community leaders and Grover from Sesame Street gathered on Dec. 3 to cut the ribbon on the block-long backlot with a Hollywood-style entry gate. The backlot marks the latest expansion by Kaufman Studios in order to increase its film productions.
George Kaufman, chairman of the studios, began the transformation of the neighborhood when he first leased the property in 1980. Since then, Kaufman has created a full-service production center that helped bring the film and television production industry back to the City, while also reinvigorating the entire neighborhood.
“The backlot at Kaufman Astoria Studios is going to add to the life of the campus and will help us attract more productions to New York,” Kaufman said.
Hal Rosenbluth, president of Kaufman Studios, said the studios, in combination with the State’s film tax credit program championed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, “are the best marketing tools to generate jobs and bring production to the area.”
Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), Chair of the City Council’s Cultural Affairs Committee, said the film industry is huge and the heart of it is in Astoria.
“Everybody here knows what George Kaufman started 30 years ago has produced literally billions and billions of dollars in revenue for the City of New York,” he said. “We like to think of it as Hollywood East.”
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-New York) said the landmarked studio, once the home of Paramount Pictures, is a “game changer for New York.”
“I predict that a few decades from now, Hollywood will be known as New York West when it comes to film production,” he said.
The 34,800-square-foot backlot with the Hollwoodesque main entry gate, located on 35th Avenue, features a dramatically lit steel truss that rises 40 feet above the street, which also serves as a working catwalk for productions. It towers with blue letters, bearing the Kaufman name.
The backlot, designed by the Rockwell Group, will allow productions to shoot exterior and special effects shots outside in a controlled environment.
In recent years, Kaufman Studios, which has grown into a vibrant arts and cultural district, has more than doubled in size and now includes 12 acres with seven stages, local and national retailers and cultural organizations, such as The Frank Sinatra School of the Arts, Museum of the Moving Image, TDF Costume Collection and Queens Council on the Arts.
Reach Trisha Sakhuja at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 128, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @Tsakhuja13.