The world’s first vertical film studio is headed to Queens. Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) has been given the green light to build Wildflower Studios for Robert De Niro, his son and real estate broker Raphael De Niro, film producer Jane Rosenthal, and Wildflower Development Group. When it completes in 2023, the Astoria-based production hub will contain 11 studio modules that house a soundstage, vertical transportation, prop shops, and dressing rooms, and is estimated to generate around 1,000 jobs.
Wildflower Development Group managing partner Adam Gordon describes the seven-floor complex as a “world-class content creation campus” that “speaks to telling stories in all forms, from streaming, AR, VR, and gaming, with a building design that looks toward the future.” Initial renderings depict a 145-foot-tall building clad in concrete panels set at different angles, creating a playful visual effect as the sun moves through the sky. The developers purchased the 5.25-acre waterfront site from the piano company Steinway & Sons, which operates a factory next door.
BIG founder and creative director Bjarke Ingels aims for Wildflower Studios to help lure film production back to the East Coast in Hollywood-style facilities that sport the latest digital production capabilities. “The vertical media production village will be home to storytellers working across all mediums—a three-dimensional hub of collaboration, creativity, and innovation,” Ingels says. “While New York City is no stranger to being the star of many visual stories—the city effectively a character in itself—this first ground-up vertical production stage complex marks a new chapter in the city’s ability to create the stories of our future.”
New York City has indeed been the setting of innumerable films and television shows, but few major production studios have called the city home. Silvercup Studios, which has produced quintessential New York shows like “30 Rock” and “Sex and the City,” has operated out of Long Island City since 1983, and Steiner Studios occupies a sprawling warehouse in the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
But that will soon change thanks to a spate of studios building massive facilities across the city, including Netflix’s 170,000-square-foot space in Bushwick, Steiner’s expansion to nearby Sunset Park, and Lionsgate tripling its footprint in Yonkers with a $500 million development that will bring more than 11 soundstages and a backlot for filming outdoor scenes. Great Point Studios, which helped create the ever-expanding Lionsgate campus, is also in contract to buy land for a second facility in Yonkers that will create eight additional soundstages and make the city one of the largest production hubs in the Northeast.
Across the state, there are more than 130 production facilities containing 450 soundstages spanning five million square feet, more than half of which have been certified in the past five years—a movement fueled by advances in computer graphics, tax incentives, and close proximity to actors who live in and around the five boroughs. These factors have made New York a favorable alternative to California, where the entertainment industry decamped after getting its start back East in the 1890s.Lionsgate’s expansion may fulfill Yonkers mayor Mike Spano’s dream of making the city the “Burbank of New York,” and with a recent influx of production studios setting up shop nearby, perhaps the Big Apple is on a fast track to becoming Hollywood East.