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Netflix unveils huge $903M plan for N.J. production studios at ex-military base

Netflix. (Photo by Olivier DOULIERY AFP via Getty Images/TNS)

Netflix unveiled plans Wednesday for an investment of $903 million into a production facility at the former Fort Monmouth in New Jersey that would serve as a central point in for the streaming entertainment giant’s East Coast operations.

The Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Authority voted to authorize Netflix’s plan when it met at 5 p.m. Wednesday, according to a joint announcement afterward from Netflix and Gov. Phil Murphy.

Though the deal will not be finalized until the due diligence period and local approvals process concludes, a supportive tweet from Murphy following the vote made it sound like a virtual certainty.

Netflix emerged in October as the top bidder among four seeking to acquire a 292-acre “mega parcel” that covers about a quarter of the longtime U.S. Army base, which closed in 2011.

The company disclosed the bid amount on Wednesday as $55 million with an additional $848 million planned to construct a massive, state-of-the-art Netflix Studios Fort Monmouth facility — a working but unofficial title, a Netflix spokesperson said.

Netflix is planning to develop 12 soundstages totaling nearly 500,000 square feet on the site, which is adjacent to Route 35 in Eatontown and Oceanport, among other additions. Renderings show multi-story production stage buildings and offices tucked behind the familiar Fort Monmouth archways.

“This will be among our largest, kind of on a par with our 300-acre facility in Albuquerque,” Netflix’s Director of Content & Studio Affairs Rajiv Dalal told NJ Advance Media in an interview prior to Wednesday’s approval.

“We’re super-excited about moving one step closer to actually making this is a reality,” said Dalal, a North Caldwell native.

Netflix estimates that, during construction, the project would generate up to 3,500 jobs. Once the facility is operational — Netflix did not provide a targeted opening date — it would provide anywhere from 1,400 to 2,200 jobs, the Netflix spokesperson said.

“Economic impact is a key driver of why we felt our proposal was best in class. We’re looking at jobs, jobs, jobs,” Dalal said.

Murphy’s administration, in October, issued a noncommittal statement, upon the prior announcement that Netflix was among the four bidders.

On Wednesday, Murphy hailed the proposal as a “transformative investment” that would “serve as a cornerstone in our efforts to create a thriving industry from whole cloth.”

”As a result of nearly a billion dollars in film production spending, New Jersey will further solidify its status as an emerging national leader in the television and film industries,” the governor said in a statement.

“Additionally, Netflix’s substantial direct investment will stimulate job creation and spark an entirely new ecosystem of housing, hotels, and ancillary businesses and services, bringing with it countless additional jobs and boosting the regional economy,” Murphy said.

The proposed Netflix facility would be the company’s main East Coast production hub.

“You’re going to have many, many titles that are made in New Jersey and seen by the rest of the world,” Dalal said.

The Netflix spokesperson said the the San Francisco-based, streaming service and production company has had a positive experience filming in New Jersey, including scenes in Atlantic City for “Army of the Dead,” a zombie heist movie released in 2021.

“New Jersey has top-notch crews and talent, and a vibrant creative sector which we intend to tap into and further enrich,” the company spokesperson said.

The proposed Netflix facility would provide a backdrop for TV series and films and serve as a tourism draw, according to the company.

It would not impact parts of the base scheduled for preservation, such as Fort Monmouth’s parade grounds, World War II Memorial and Cowan Park.

“Those will stay open to the community,” Dalal said. “We’re going to do screenings in the park in the summer.”

The spokesperson estimated that the value to the New Jersey economy over a 20-year period, as a direct result of construction and production activity, would be between $3.8 billion and $4.6 billion.

Netflix also would bring in training programs for workforce development.

Dalal said that a substantial part of the $848 million cost will involve tearing down buildings and site remediation, factors that are typically part of the process in transforming a former military base.

Two Netflix productions that debuted this fall involved New Jersey, but were produced elsewhere.

Netflix’s “The Watcher,” based on the enduring mystery about a series of letters from an anonymous stranger targeting the new owners of a Westfield home, was produced in Rye, New York.

“The Good Nurse” is about a nurse from New Jersey, Charles Cullen, who pleaded guilty to killing at least 29 people from 1988 to 2003 while working at hospitals in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.


© 2022 Advance Local Media LLC

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