A former military base will be home to one of the largest film production studios in the world as entertainment giant Netflix has agreed to buy almost 300 acres of land not far from the Jersey Shore and invest $848 million to build the massive facility.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and Netflix announced in late December that Netflix will develop an East Coast production facility on the former U.S. Army post at Fort Monmouth, south of New York City, in Monmouth County, N.J.
Media Play News, an online home entertainment news service, reported Dec. 22 that the move will transform a property that has been mostly vacant for more than a decade.
In addition, the project will likely create more than 1,500 permanent production jobs and 3,500-plus construction-related jobs in New Jersey, according to a press release from Netflix.
The streaming service's millions of dollars in capital investments will develop the more than 292-acre parcel — adjacent to New Jersey Highway 35 in Eatontown and Oceanport — into 12 ultramodern soundstages totaling nearly 500,000 sq. ft. of new development, with the rest of the property slated to be redeveloped both for companies supporting the film industry and several community amenities.
"This transformative investment will serve as a cornerstone in our efforts to create a thriving industry from whole cloth," Murphy said in a statement. "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.
"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," he added.
Netflix's decision follows Lionsgate Studio's investment as the majority tenant in a branded film and TV production facility in the state, totaling 253,000 sq. ft., and currently under construction in Newark.
New Jersey, like Georgia and California, has increased tax incentives to Hollywood movie and TV show production since 2018 under a push by Murphy. Netflix's original zombie movie "Army of the Dead" was largely filmed in the Garden State.
Netflix's largest U.S.-based production facility is based in Albuquerque, N.M., where the hit TV shows "Breaking Bad" and "Better Call Saul," were made.
Netflix Bested Three Other Applicants for Property
The announcement follows an agreement between the Board of the Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Authority (FMERA) and Netflix to sell the military installation to the studio for its redevelopment. FMERA's decision to do so was made at its Dec. 21 board meeting, according to Media Play News.
Netflix was one of four applicants that submitted proposals in response to a Request for Offers to Purchase (RFOTP) issued by FMERA last March, with a deadline of June 6, 2022. Netflix received the top evaluation score, according to the studio's news release.
The deal now enters a due diligence period and local approvals process before it can be finalized.
Netflix will pay $55 million for the parcel, including a utility contribution of $5 million and the FMERA office relocation fee of $3 million, per the terms of the RFOTP.
"We're thrilled to continue and expand our significant investment in New Jersey and North America," Ted Sarandos, Netflix co-CEO, and chief content officer, said in a statement. "We believe a Netflix studio can boost the local and state economy with thousands of new jobs and billions in economic output, while sparking a vibrant production ecosystem in New Jersey.
"We thank the FMERA [Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization] Board and their staff for selecting Netflix as the winning bid and for supporting our mission to create a state-of-the-art production facility at Fort Monmouth."
Twelve Soundstages Slated for Construction
Netflix's plans for a sustainable, integrated film studio campus will be completed in two phases over the course of several years, according to the company's press release.
The first phase will include the construction of 12 soundstages, each ranging in size from 15,000 to 40,000 sq. ft., with a minimum total buildout of between 180,000 and 480,000 sq. ft. Additional and ancillary upgrades to the former Army installation may include office space, production services buildings, mill space and studio backlots, among other uses customary to the film industry, with the potential for retail spaces as well.
"Netflix's decision to make a major investment in New Jersey is crystal clear evidence that Gov. Murphy's commitment to building a thriving film and television industry in New Jersey is working," New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) CEO Tim Sullivan explained in a statement.
Noting that the American film industry was born in nearby Fort Lee, N.J. in the late 1800s, Sullivan added that "under Gov. Murphy's leadership our state continues to be a place where production companies thrive. This project marks an extraordinary next chapter in the redevelopment of Fort Monmouth following the devastating closure of the base in 2011."
Media Play New noted that the parcel that will be developed by Netflix has residential, administrative, research and development buildings, warehouses, workshops and general-purpose facilities once used by the Army in the Boroughs of Eatontown and Oceanport, within the Main Post section of Fort Monmouth.
New Use for Fort Monmouth Universally Hailed
First opened during World War I, Fort Monmouth served as a home for various U.S. Army functions over the decades, including the service's Materiel Command headquarters. It was open to the public for tours until the 9/11 terrorist attacks, before the Pentagon recommended its decommissioning in 2005. The base finally closed Sept. 15, 2011.
"Our team is incredibly passionate about Fort Monmouth's revitalization and is committed to surpassing the Fort's prior role as a major economic driver in the region," FMERA executive director Kara Kopach said in a statement.
Oceanport Mayor Jay Coffey, in a release from his office, added, "A little over a decade ago, Oceanport's most important economic and social driver, Fort Monmouth, closed. When the Fort shut down, jobs disappeared, families moved away, and an empty, barren Fort Monmouth served as a constant reminder of what we had lost. From a redevelopment standpoint, however, what has transpired over the past six years or so in the Oceanport section of Fort Monmouth has been nothing short of remarkable.
"Netflix's arrival allows for an incredibly advantageous and creative re-use of this property and will serve to restore a great deal of economic vitality and social energy to Oceanport and Monmouth County at large," he continued.
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