From King Kong bellowing atop the Empire State Building to Travis Bickle’s ride through gritty Manhattan streets and Kimmy Schmidt’s comic misadventures, New York City has played host to a wealth of unforgettable moments on film and television.
While the city continues to see an increase in filmed productions year after year, officials believe there’s more to be done to attract crews to the Big Apple.
And they’ve got an impressive roster of native stars to help, after the announcement Wednesday that Robert De Niro, Alicia Keys, John Leguizamo, Lady Gaga and Tribeca Film Festival honcho Jane Rosenthal will serve as city entertainment ambassadors, as part of the 50th anniversary commemoration for the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment (MOME).
Over the next 12 months, the stars will play an increasingly visible role in promoting the local film and television industry, which generated $9 billion in revenue last year and created over 130,000 jobs.
“You want to make the movies where the talent is. It’s here. It’s this city that attracts the most diverse community,” De Niro said at an event at the Museum of the Moving Image on Wednesday.
Over the last 15 years, the city has seen film and TV production double. Some 366 movies and 52 prime-time series were made locally in 2015, according to the mayor’s office. By comparison, in 1966, before MOME was created, there were only 11 movies made in New York, generating a total of $20 million.
Paul Levinson, professor of media studies at Fordham University, hailed the office’s role in spearheading the city’s transformation into a movie town. MOME launched concurrent to a period where studios started shifting away from backlots in favor of on location shoots.
With specialized services such as a dedicated NYPD film unit and a central hub for getting permits, the city made things easier for productions in search of iconic locations.
“New York really rolled out the red carpet,” Levinson said.
The past decade has seen an extra degree of success before of a streamlined permit process, new tax credits, an increase in outer borough studio space and the rise of streaming services.
Keys, a Hell’s Kitchen native who joked that she refuses every entreaty to move to the West Coast, said artists are increasingly looking to the outer boroughs.
New York has always been a character in my stories and there’s nothing like it,” she said. “I never saw it as a small place; it’s a big place.”
MOME’s 50th anniversary celebration will include 10 pop-up outdoor movie screenings featuring New York movies, a city-centric movie marathon on Turner Classic Movies on July 21 and more.
Some, of course, bemoan the rise in production because of the inconvenience of late-night shoots, street closures and other effects of on-location filming. It’s one of those eternal New York City quality of life issues that just won’t go away.
But Levinson believes most New Yorkers get the significance of the industry.
“If you think about it, it is an incredibility important reason for the inconvenience. This is doing a lot of good for the city,” he said.