Great Point Studios is developing a 300,000-square-foot studio complex at 164 Dayton St. in Newark, the site of the former Seth Boyden Court public housing complex, as depicted in this rendering. — Courtesy: Great Point Studios
By Joshua Burd
A sprawling studio complex is coming to the former site of a Newark public housing complex, under a $125 million project unveiled Tuesday by its development team and public officials.
The 300,000-square-foot facility, which would cover 12 acres, will be the first purpose-built studio in New Jersey specifically constructed for TV and film production, according to a news release. Lionsgate will anchor the complex at 164 Dayton St., in the city’s South Ward, where local officials recently tore down the historic but blighted Seth Boyden Court property to make way for new development.
Great Point Studios, a media-focused investment group that will own and operate the facility, unveiled the project alongside Gov. Phil Murphy, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka and a team that also includes the New Jersey Performing Arts Center.
“With the addition of the Lionsgate Newark Studio, New Jersey will cement its position as a hub for television and film production with its proximity to all forms of transportation and access to more than 14,000 qualified union members in the region,” Murphy said. “As a result, the introduction of the Lionsgate Newark Studio not only promotes the economic vitality of our state, but also provides good jobs and access to opportunity for all South Ward community members.”
The project is the latest high-profile announcement under a key piece of Murphy’s agenda. The second-term governor has actively courted the film and television industry and has expanded a tax credit program for productions and studio operations, which the state said was instrumental in attracting Lionsgate to New Jersey.
Great Point Studios, whose partners include the founder of the Hallmark Channel, will own the complex alongside the private investment firm Lindsay Goldberg, the news release said. Matrix Development Group will serve as the project developer, while Gensler will spearhead architecture and master planning.
Operations are expected to begin in late 2024.
“We have a shared vision for the future of the entertainment industry, and it’s reflected in every detail we put into this complex,” said Robert Halmi, Great Point’s founder and CEO and former chairman of Crown Media. “Given the rise in studio production post-COVID, we are confident that expanding our studio program into New Jersey will be a welcome addition.”
When complete, the complex will house production stages ranging from 20,000 to 30,000 square feet, offices, support space and parking for 400 cars and 65 trucks. The facility will offer a full set of production services on site, including grip and electric, equipment, props, set building, restaurants, location catering, cleaning service and security.
The project team also expects the development to create more than 600 new long-term jobs, with priority for positions going to residents of Newark, and generate more than $800 million of annual economic impact for Newark and New Jersey.
“Bringing a project of this magnitude into Newark is a monumental victory for our city,” Baraka said. “It will bring hundreds of new jobs, create new educational opportunities for our students and invigorate the revitalization of the South Ward.”
According to the news release, NJPAC originated the idea for the project with the city and its housing authority, developed a coalition of partners and collaborated to bring the concept to fruition. The arts center, which is located downtown, will manage public affairs and community relations for the studio and create educational programs and internships for Newark high school and college students.
“NJPAC continually seeks opportunities to act as a catalyst for economic development in its home city of Newark,” said John Schreiber, the performing arts center’s CEO. “We are grateful to Mayor Baraka and the Newark Housing Authority for embracing our project to bring a world class film studio back to the city where celluloid movie film was invented and to Governor Murphy for creating tax incentives to make New Jersey more attractive to the film industry and especially for the development of studios, like Lionsgate Newark. Without their collective efforts, this project wouldn’t have seen the light of day.”
Lionsgate, a top player in Hollywood, boasts a film, television, subscription and location-based entertainment business backed by a 17,000-title library and a collection of well-known franchises.
“This is a great opportunity to scale our East Coast studio footprint with our partners at Great Point Studios and the New Jersey Performing Arts Center to support our robust film and television production,” Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer said. “Lionsgate Studios Newark is also an important part of our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, enabling us to create hundreds of jobs, provide educational opportunities to local students and contribute to the economic revitalization of the South Ward of Newark.”