A movie studio right here in the city is giving the ones in Hollywood a run for the money. As Queens Week continues, borough reporter Ruschell Boone explains how the production complex in Astoria can hold it's own when it comes to making movies and TV shows.
From the talkies of the 1920s to the comedy, action, and thrillers of today, Kaufman Studios has played an instrumental role in the entertainment industry. It's the place where movie, and television magic is made.
"We've turned it into great things,” says Kaufman Astoria Studios president Hal Rosenbluth.
The studio was home for the Huxtables and it's still home to television's most popular address, “Sesame Street.”
Nestled into the Astoria community Kaufman spans an entire block on 36th Street between 34th and 35th Avenues. It is considered the second biggest studio outside of Hollywood. The American Museum of the Moving Image, Sports Radio WFAN and Kaufman's music studio is also on the lot.
“We work with the producers here in New York as well as the heads of production out in Los Angeles and between the three of us, we'll call it, once a determination is made for a show to be done in New York we look to be their first call to have it done here at Kaufman Astoria,” says Rosenbluth.
After opening in 1920, the studio was eventually taken over by Paramount Pictures. During WWII the government used it to make army training films.
The building later fell into disrepair, and in 1980 it was renovated by real estate developer George S. Kaufman. Since then, hundreds of movies, TV shows and commercials have been made there.
“We've turned it into the dancehall for ÎStepford Wives.’ We've turned it into a desert battlefield for ÎManchurian Candidate.’ It has been a shopping mall for ÎScenes from a Mall.’ It has been the Waldorf Astoria for ÎScent of a Woman.’”
But long before the director yells lights camera action, the studio or production crew has to build the fantasy land.
“They're going to build a big hospital set here,” says Kaufman Astoria Studios manager Peter Romano. “Before that we had a huge courtroom scene for ÎConviction.’ We had a courthouse a couple of different judges’ chambers. It took them about three or four months.”
A lot of the big productions are done on the E stage which is about 26,000 square feet. Built in 1920, it's one of the oldest stages on the East Coast. It would cost more than $200 million to recreate the stage today. Romano says the overhead steel grid is what makes it desirable.
“It has a lot of pick points to hang chains and anything that needs to be done on stage. When the army had it, it used to dolly jeeps across it,” says Romano.
These days, it’s only used for entertainment.
— Ruschell Boone