Orange County Partnership - News

Film Production Industry is ‘Big Business’ in Orange County

The old adage “Numbers don’t lie” definitely applies to the fact that the film/production industry is a burgeoning sector in Orange County and the Hudson Valley region.


Amanda Dana, director of Orange County Tourism & Film in Goshen, tells Resources & Results, “Filming is big business. There has been a significant uptick in filming in Orange County over the last six months.”


She added, “The theory behind it is that during the pandemic when we were shut down, the Hudson Valley was opened about six weeks before New York City was opened. So, that means that productions pushed to keep on schedule or somewhat close to a schedule. So, they came to the Hudson Valley and came to Orange County and looked for certified soundstages so that they could get the New York State film tax credit.”


Dana noted that filming/production also includes production at soundstage studios and Orange County had three locations that these productions could book. Umbra Sound Stages, which provides certified turn-key soundstages that qualify for New York State film tax credits, operates two facilities on Scobie Drive in Newburgh and one at the Motorcyclepedia Museum in the City of Newburgh at 250 Lake Street, which is located on the lower level of the building.


Dana said that there are more soundstage studio facilities in the planning process, including a proposal by Umbra to convert a section of New Windsor on Route 9W into a production corridor. The corridor, which will involve multiple properties, include the former Anthony’s Pier 9, which Umbra acquired earlier this year. Umbra is now seeking approvals to change the zoning to allow for production studio use. The proposal, which would need Planning Board approval, would include three turn-key soundstage facilities and ancillary production-oriented space and offices.  


In addition, Michelson Studios, which suffered a devastating fire that destroyed its 60,000-square-foot sound stage in November 2020, is vowing to rebuild and was set to submit plans for an all new complex that would feature eight soundstages, according to a recent report in the Middletown Times Herald Record.


Dana noted that since the launch of the Orange County Tourism & Film office in July 2019, it has worked with 41 productions. OC has landed a total of $ 116.6 million in production budgets and has another $190 million in pending production activity.


She noted that some of the notable productions now underway or in the pipeline include “The White House Plumbers." The HBO miniseries chronicles the events surrounding the Watergate scandal and stars Woody Harrelson and Justin Theroux. The miniseries has an estimated $100-million budget and has secured sound space at Umbra Sound Stages on 9 Scobie Drive.


Dana added that the Hallmark channel will be using another stage in Newburgh where they will be filming a production with a budget between $3 million to $5 million. Apple TV is waiting on the New Windsor project for a series and they are projected to spend $50 million to $70 million in production-related costs.


While 2020 was a tough year due to the coronavirus, the film industry is a multi-billion-dollar sector for New York State. Through the end of November, 2019, the New York State Film Tax Credit production program received 188 applications representing $4.7 billion in spending and 248,477 hires. A total of 73 TV series applied to the program, projecting $3.9 billion in state spending and more than 189,600 hires.


The Mid-Hudson region saw significant production activity in 2019, including hosting an entire series, “I Know This Much Is True” for HBO. The show, based at Umbra Stages in Newburgh and on locations across the river in Poughkeepsie, shot more than 85 days on location. The region saw 40 film and television projects representing $1 billion in spending and more than 57,700 hires, according to a report issued by the Governor’s Office of Motion Picture and Television Development.


Tri-State Region Emerges as Powerhouse For Film Production Industry: CBRE Report


Commercial brokerage firm CBRE recently issued a report that the region’s quality studio space and highly educated talent pool is proving to be a major draw for the content creation sector.


As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, demand for more streaming video content for televisions, tablets, computers and smart phones has skyrocketed. Studios and major networks are intent on holding viewers’ attention with fresh content, necessitating additional studio space, the report stated.


“New York is one of the largest media centers in the world with more than 150 production and post-production firms occupying 2 million square feet of space in Manhattan alone,” said CBRE Executive Vice President Rocco Laginestra. “Additionally, Brooklyn and Queens boast large soundstage facilities that have been purpose-built or occupy large converted industrial facilities. The Tri-State region is ideally positioned to be a major player as the film industry continues to restart, grow and evolve.”


The report highlights several factors that make the New York Tri-State region a welcoming environment for the booming content creation industry, including:


  • Over $700 million in incentives offered by New York and New Jersey through 2025;


  • 130,000 qualified industry professionals;


  • Countless location opportunities with historic towns and villages, diverse neighborhoods, sandy beaches, riverbanks, mountains, forests, marshes and coves all within a short drive;


  • More than 280 soundstages of various sizes throughout New York City, New Jersey, the Hudson Valley and Long Island;


  • Eleven new purpose-built production studios with soundstages in the planning and development phase.


Voracious demand for content has also spurred big mergers and blockbuster acquisitions over the past several years. Hackman Capital Partners and Square Mile Capital’s acquisition of storied Silvercup Studios for $500 million made waves in September 2020, and several other deals involving studios and production firms with a New York presence have occurred in recent years. These include Lupa Systems’ and Attention Capital’s acquisition of Tribeca Enterprises, and the acquisition of Big Fish Entertainment by MGM.


“The film industry, which returned to work in the summer of 2020, is ideally positioned for success and is a true bright spot for the region as a whole,” Laginestra said. “The Tri-State region is assuming more ownership over the aspects of production that take place indoors on movie sets and in front of green screens, further raising the region’s profile as a global center of motion picture production.”