Edited by: Fern Sidman
It appears that the live streaming service Netflix is getting closer to meeting its objective of establishing a production complex in New Jersey.
According to a recently published story in the New York Times, Netflix has been selected as the top bidder for a piece of prime real estate on the Jersey Shore. The land had been formerly occupied by Fort Monmouth, an army base located near Eatontown in the Garden State. The 300 acre site is situated approximately 50 miles south of New York City. Currently, Netflix has a studio located in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn, according to the Times report.
Netflix has had their share of problems over the last year. Last month, the Jewish Voice reported that the streaming giant recently put new leadership in place over its Animation Film team by adding new vice presidents Karen Toliver and Traci Balthazor. And one of their first moves was to layoff an additional 30 employees, Deadline reported.
However, a list of animated series and specials had already been called off in previous cost-cutting measures, including the proposed animated series by Meghan Markle and Prince Harry that had been greenlighted, as well as Dino Daycare from executive producer Chris Nee, and the adventure series Boons and Curses.
The tech giant has faced a serious downturn this year. It reported that it lost 200,000 subscribers during the first quarter this year. Netflix expects to lose a staggering 2 million more before 2022 is over and morale is reportedly low.
Netflix has already engaged in multiple rounds of layoffs and also cut down on staffers at its in-house fan site Tudum only five months after launching the division.
In May, it was reported that Netflix was the S&P 500’s worst performing stock. That same month, the company’s shares fell seven percent on the news of more bad subscriber data.
So far, no more project cancellations have been announced, though, as projects remain on track including Apollo 10 ½: A Space Age Childhood from Richard Linklater, Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio, an Aardman sequel to Chicken Run, and more.
The NYT reported that the deal is far from being finalized at this juncture. More approvals are needed and the economic terms are not fully formed, but Netflix seems confident that this is a “go.”
The 96-year-old army base — used by the United States to develop radar technology and where a civilian engineer, Julius Rosenberg, infamously began his espionage career — was closed by the Pentagon in 2011 as the military cut spending, the NYT report indicated.
Back in June of this year, Fox Business News reported that Netflix’s announcement came after New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy sent a letter to Hollywood film studios in April, including Netflix, Disney and Warner Brothers, in an effort to lure them away from Georgia after the state approved a controversial voting law.
“I am incredibly excited to hear about Netflix’s proposed investment,” Governor Murphy said in a statement In October 2021. “While there is an objective process that any and all applications will have to go through, this is yet more evidence that the economic plan my administration has laid out is working and bringing high-quality, good-paying jobs to our state.”
“America’s first movie studio was in New Jersey, and today it’s home to many talented people working in entertainment,” Netflix told FOX Business at the time. “Gov. Murphy and the state’s legislative leaders have created a business environment that’s welcomed film and television production back to the state, and we’re excited to submit our bid to transform Fort Monmouth into a state-of-the-art production facility.”
New Jersey has a long relationship with Hollywood. Thomas Edison started what is considered to be the nation’s first film studio in West Orange in 1893. The state’s political winds, however, have not always been favorable to the entertainment industry, according to the NYT report.
The NYT reported that speculation about Netflix’s interest in Fort Monmouth has been circulating since July 2021, when The Two River Times reported that Netflix had been in contact with Governor Murphy’s office about building opportunities.
New Jersey officials began playing up their state as economically and politically friendly to Netflix in 2019, when a delegation from Murphy’s administration visited various Hollywood companies in Los Angeles, as was reported by the NYT in 2021.
If the deal goes through, the Jersey Shore site would be Netflix’s second-largest production complex behind ABQ Studios in New Mexico, according to the NYT report in 2021. Netflix bought that complex in 2018 and committed to spend $1 billion in the state, announcing plans in 2020 to expand and invest an additional $1 billion. ABQ Studios will have more than 15 soundstages when complete, the report added.
“If our plans are approved, we hope to build a facility that will create significant economic impact and job growth for New Jersey, a state loaded with creative talent and technical expertise,” Netflix said in a statement.
“We are thrilled to hear that Netflix is interested in establishing a serious presence in New Jersey and look forward to working with them and the rest of the industry to create good-paying jobs and spur economic growth throughout the state,” Governor Murphy said in a statement.
The property, dubbed the Mega Parcel has been appraised for $54 million by the Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Authority (FMERA), as was reported by Fox Business News. Netflix had been bidding with other very interested developers for the New Jersey property and the NYT reported that several developers previously offered more than $100 million for just 89 acres of the 1,126-acre Army base.
In addition to Netflix, three other firms have submitted bids: Extell Acquisitions LLC, Mega Parcel Development LLC and RDR Partners LLC. Fox Business News reported that both FMERA and Netflix declined to provide additional information on the bid.
Fox Business News reported that in addition to Netflix’s interest in the Garden State, Lions Gate Entertainment recently announced plans to build a $125 million production studio in Newark, New Jersey. Lionsgate’s facility is expected to begin operations in late 2024, create more than 600 new long-term jobs for Newark residents and generate more than $800 million in annual economic impact for the city and state.