General Business

NJ’s Film Industry Renaissance

Once the birthplace of the modern film industry, New Jersey is making a comeback.

While Hollywood has become synonymous with movie production, the modern film industry actually got its start on the East Coast, when New Jersey resident and famed inventor Thomas Edison constructed the world’s first film production studio behind his West Orange laboratory in 1893.

As Edison’s West Orange studio began producing the world’s first silent movies, his cutthroat business practices, led by a bevy of strictly enforced patents on many of the technologies necessary to produce film, aided him in forming a monopoly on the industry. At the time, if you wanted to be in the movie business, it went through Thomas Edison.

Eventually, independent film makers decided to flee across the country – to California – in an effort to evade Edison’s patents. The cross country travel and leniency of California judges made patent enforcement difficult, and ultimately led to their expiration altogether.

Shortly after becoming the birthplace of the industry, New Jersey took a back seat to the new movie mecca of the world: Hollywood.

The Power of Incentives

In 2018, Gov. Phil Murphy reinstated the Film and Digital Media Tax Credit program – which was then further expanded in 2021 – in an effort to help reclaim New Jersey as a top movie making destination. As a result, the state now offers one of the nation’s most attractive incentive programs for filmmakers, featuring a 30% or 35% tax credit and a 2% or 4% diversity bonus.

Since the film tax credit program was reinstated, the state has seen a boom in film production. According to the New Jersey Motion Picture and Television Commission (NJMPTVC), revenue from entertainment production in New Jersey was just $67 million in 2017. In 2022, overall in-state production spending from filmmaking exceeded $650 million dollars, besting the previous record of $500 million set in 2021.

NJMPTVC Executive Director Steven Gorelick says that the incentive program has opened the floodgates and leveled the playing field for New Jersey.

Marketing has also played a key role in the influx of revenue from the industry, as the state’s topographic diversity lends itself nicely to filmmakers looking for a variety of locations.

As First Lady Tammy Murphy puts it, “New Jersey’s range of landscapes – from bustling cities like Newark and Jersey City, to idyllic and pristine beaches, to farmland, wetlands, and forests – makes our state a uniquely diverse destination for film and television production.”

Film Ready New Jersey

Work is also being done to support local municipalities as well. The Film Ready New Jersey Program, launched by the NJMPTVC is designed to support municipalities and counties as they work to accommodate location filming. The 5-step certification and marketing program aims to empower municipalities to attract filmmakers, and showcase their communities as filming destinations.

“New Jersey offers many advantages to the film and television industry, and the cooperation of our communities is foremost among them,” says Gorelick. “We are encouraging our cities and towns to welcome filmmakers with open arms, and the Film Ready New Jersey Program is designed to facilitate that.”

Netflix and Lionsgate

According to NJMPTVC, motion picture, television and streaming productions in the state created more than 8,500 jobs in 2022, a figure that is expected to grow significantly in the coming years, thanks to significant investment in the state from some of the largest players in the production industry.

Last year, Netflix announced that it plans to develop a state-of-the-art East Coast production facility on the former Fort Monmouth campus in Monmouth County, a property which has sat largely vacant for more than a decade.

The project is estimated to create more than 1,500 permanent production jobs and more than 3,500 construction-related jobs in the state.

“We believe a Netflix studio can boost the local and state economy with thousands of new jobs and billions in economic output,” says Ted Sarandos, Netflix co-CEO and chief content officer.

Governor Murphy said the investment will serve as a cornerstone in the state’s efforts to create a thriving film industry.

Netflix plans to commit $848 million in capital investments to develop the more than 292-acre parcel. The studio campus will be completed in two phases over the course of several years. The first phase will include the construction of 12 soundstages that will range in size from 15,000 square feet to 40,000 square feet each with a minimum total buildout of 180,000 square feet and a maximum buildout of 500,000 square feet.

Separately, a partnership between Great Point Studios, the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC), and Lionsgate will also see a major 300,000 square-foot, $125 million production facility erected in Newark.

The complex will be located in Newark’s South Ward at the site of the former Seth Boyden Housing site. The project is anticipated to create more than 600 new long-term jobs and generate more than $800 million of annual economic impact for the state.


In addition to the Netflix and Lionsgate projects, there are currently 29 film studios open in the state, including Palisades Stages in Kearny, Cinelease Caven Point in Jersey City, and 10 Basin Studios in Kearny.

There is clearly a lot to be excited about when it comes to movie and television production in the Garden State. In fact, Gorelick has even gone as far as to say that instead of dubbing New Jersey, “Hollywood East,” people may soon be calling California, “New Jersey West.”

For the birthplace of the film industry, his contention may not just be hyperbole.

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