The Past Week in Review: for May 2, 2011
The Vitagraph Studios in Brooklyn, now for sale, originally looked like this.
Photo credit: George Groves tribute website
We search for the more interesting and provocative news and views of the past week…just so you don’t have to.
This week we note the sale of a movie studio with roots that go back over a century ago, strong trends in production growth for the New York City region, and how some individuals and companies are taking media production and consumption further into the Internet age.
Silent Movie Memory Palace and Current Production Gear both for Sale
Crain’s New York reports that Brooklyn’s J.C. Studios is on the auction block after the cancellation of soaper As the World Turns last year. The studio, located in the Midwood section of Brooklyn, became the second home of the American Vitagraph company in 1907. An important early studio in the silent era, Vitagraph was later sold to Warner Bros.
The remains of Atlantic Video are up for auction. The facility had provided stages and full suite of production gear at the Manhattan Center on West 34th Street. An auction of video gear (including cameras, switchers, and file servers) will be held on June 7th. We can only imagine that real estate costs in mid-Manhattan had much to do with the demise of a facility that’s been around for some time. More info here.
Production Scene Improves
But let’s take a look at the bright side of production in New York. Crains New York recently reported that a record 20 TV pilots have been filmed in NY over the past few months. Crains credits the uptick to last August’s renewal of the state’s 30-percent tax credit for film production, and quotes city film commissioner Katherine Oliver who estimates that some $120 million has come to the city’s coffers through the new production. (While you can read the full article on Crain’s site, it requires a digital subscription.)
Instead, you can turn to this in-depth article by Nellie Andreeva from Deadline posted a couple of months ago, which notes that production is up from zero the prior year. According to Andreeva, pilot production in New York now nearly equals that in Los Angeles, the traditional leader, which has seen a continual drop in such production.
In another sign that media production in New York is on an upswing, the Visual Effects Society (VES) announced that it had formed a new section in New York. The organization represents around 2500 visual effects artists worldwide. The New York chapter includes effects creators in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut.
How Not to Get Left Behind
You might not think that Jeff Jarvis is writing for anyone but stick-in-the-mud old-style print and broadcast journalists in this posting, but his recent column “Hard economic lessons for news” offers a brisk rundown of the new rules of the road for anyone embarking on a web business.
Jarvis, who has worked at many of the major media companies he takes to task in this post, directs the interactive journalism program and the new business models for news project at the City University of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism.
Getting with the Program
Some New York TV news regulars, who recently launched a new all-video news and info website seem to have taken Jarvis’ message and run with it. Buzz60.com covers “trendy stories from world events to Hollywood,” according to a release,, with founders including longtime local sportscaster Len Berman and Philip O’Brien, who had a hand in starting up the revamped news operations at Time Warner’s NY1. Read more in this New York Post article.
Another take on new trends in media comes from New York producer Christine Vachon, who is quoted in this IndieWIRE article by Brian Brooks as commenting that “The State of Cinema is not necessarily taking place in a cinema.”
Vachon, credited with over 60 indie productions, goes on to say that she’s seen independent film “die and be re-born at least three or four times. When it does, it reminds me how terrified we are of change – how terrified the film business is of change.”
Brooks’ article includes a complete video of Vachon’s talk at the San Francisco International Film Festival.
We Demand to See Everything….Real Soon
In another sign of our shifting media world, major studios have come up with a new video on demand scheme that will offer quick access to recently released films. Theater owners think the majors are trying to cut them out of long runs of popular films, since the VOD would begin shortly after the theaters get them. Hollywood of course is looking at the plummeting sales of DVDs and Netflix’s rise. More here.
Finally, more news of the industry’s move to new media distribution schemes, YouTube is on the verge of implementing a movies-on-demand service. According to TheWrap, Google will be directly challenging Apple’s iTunes service while offering a new revenue stream to counter declining home entertainment revenues. Read about that here.