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NYC film and television industry rebounding well from pandemic shutdown

New York City is ready for its long-awaited close up, thanks to a film and entertainment industry that has rebounded strongly from the coronavirus pandemic that had shut down production in the media capital of the world.

Actors, extras and production crews have been slowly increasing their workloads in line with the easing of COVID restrictions that pulled the plug on popular TV shows.

Not only has work resumed on existing shows depicting life in the Big Apple, but networks even added some new content.

The post-pandemic premieres included CBS’ “The Equalizer,” starring Queen Latifah. and NBC’s “Law & Order: Organized Crime,” the latest in the long-running police drama franchise.

Both popular shows were picked up for second seasons after they dealt with some drama along the way.

Positive COVID-19 tests paused filming for a few days on the sets of both shows, despite rigorous safety protocols.

“We’re talking about a business that works in close proximity,” said Anne del Castillo, commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment. “They still have certain protocols in place. The last thing you want to do is have a show shut down.”

The film and television industry was one of the hardest hit when pandemic protocols were put in place last year, and had a devastating impact on the city.

Before the pandemic, productions were generating nearly $60 billion in economic activity and $3 billion in tax revenue. They kept more than 100,000 people employed.

“When that shut down you could feel the impact,” del Castillo said.

In June, the city approved 602 shooting permits for 205 projects, according to the mayor’s media and entertainment office. That’s up from August, when there were 131 shooting permits approved for 67 projects.

There were no permits issued or projects reported at all in June 2020.

The rebound hasn’t yet hit pre-COVID-19 levels, when the agency issued nearly 1,000 permits each month, and New York City film and TV production was at an all-time high.

“It’s a significant economic engine for New York,” del Castillo said. “When arts and entertainment shut down, people really felt it in a way you didn’t really anticipate. There’s a whole set of activities that operate around it.”

The industry was one of the first to get back to business in New York City. With the recovery came the responsibility of helping the rest of the nation cope with the stress of the pandemic.

“These shows are how people experience New York for the first time,” del Castillo said. “Another silver lining of the pandemic is there is an important awareness of the creative community.”

Some shows benefited from shorter seasons. The “Law & Order” spinoff had only eight episodes instead of 13 for star Christopher Meloni to catch his bad guy, but the result was a tighter story line.

The same was true of NBC”s “New Amsterdam,” the New York-based medical drama. Viewers had to wait only 14 episodes instead of 22 for the season-ending kiss between Dr. Max Goodwin and Dr. Helen Sharpe.

The industry’s rising tide hasn’t lifted all the production boats. Still struggling is Brooklyn Studios owner Joe Grant, whose three-building complex in Long Island City was teetering on the brink in the months after the shutdown.

Last year, Grant was on the verge of signing a deal with Netflix to rent out space for the production of the popular comedy-drama series “Russian Doll” when the pandemic hit and forced the streaming service to pull out.

Grant has been able to get by with a federal Paycheck Protection Program loan and a few commercial shooting contracts.
“It’s starting to pick up,” Grant said. “It’s not where I want to be. Things haven’t quite come back to where it was.”

Netflix came back — though not with the deal Grant had before. Disney soon followed.

Several clients have used his studio to create digital images of scenes from all over the world.

“It works really well,” Grant said.

Grant’s latest challenge is competition from other warehouse owners who are renting out cut-rate space to various networks. NY Daily News

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