Hollywood is coming to Yonkers in the form of a new movie and television production studio that is expected to cost more than $100 million and to be used by Lionsgate, a producer of motion pictures, television series, digital products and more. The studio is planned for 28 Wells Ave., next to the Kawasaki Rail Car plant, and part of the iPark Hudson campus which covers 24 acres.
Great Point Capital Management, a media-focused investment fund run by Robert Halmi and Fehmi Zeko, has signed a letter of intent with Lionsgate to build the production facility with Lionsgate becoming a long-term anchor tenant and investor in the studio complex. As anchor tenant, Lionsgate will have naming rights to the studio.
An announcement from Lionsgate said that construction on the Yonkers site will start in November and the facility will be up and running in late autumn 2020.
The $100 million-plus, entertainment complex will include three 20,000-square-foot and two 10,000-square-foot stages, a studio backlot and the opportunity to create a location-based entertainment property similar to what Lionsgate has already established in China, the Middle East and elsewhere around the world.
“This is a game-changer for the city of Yonkers and is a testament to the ongoing revitalization of our waterfront,” Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano said. “Yonkers already hosts dozens of on-location shoots every year with film days tripling over the last five years, so building a permanent soundstage here makes perfect sense. We are thrilled to have Lionsgate partner with Great Point Capital Management and National Resources to make this happen.”
Westchester County Executive George Latimer told the Business Journal that having the studio will help the county’s film and tourism office in its efforts to attract film and TV production. “It makes Westchester a hotter place to be. The spinoff benefits are going to be tremendous. You’re going to have people who will come here to Westchester to live because they want to be close to the studio where they’re working.”
Latimer said, “When you get a studio like this and they’re filming television shows and well as movies, they need other types of locations, other sites that will complement what they’re doing and that’s where we’re going to see an uptick in activity in other communities. They’ll want a scene at a train station, or they’ll want a scene in a downtown shopping district. This takes us up to another level.”
A key investment partner and project developer is National Resources of Greenwich, Connecticut. The company, which owns iPark Hudson in downtown Yonkers, has operated in the New York area for 30 years and has participated in more than $1.5 billion of redevelopment. National Resources has experience in design and construction, with projects including automotive dealerships, warehouse facilities, municipal facilities and retail stores. National Resources will be responsible for all phases of design and construction of the studio complex.
“We’re pleased to partner with the Great Point and National Resources teams on a modern film and television production complex that will provide a great home for many of our content creation initiatives,” Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer said. “It’s rare to find a studio facility in such a prime New York metropolitan area location, and we look forward to being at the center of film and television production growth in the region.”
Joseph Cotter, president of National Resources said, “The city of Yonkers has been very supportive of Great Point Capital’s efforts regarding the studio facility. The growth and revitalization of Yonkers as well as its proximity to New York City make it an ideal location for a film studio.”
“Given the dramatic rise in television production and the shortage of studio facilities in the New York area, a new, best-in-class production facility is an ideal investment for Great Point Capital. We are very proud that Lionsgate shares our vision and has come on board with our project,” Robert Halmi said.
Just to the north on the river, the “Blue Cube,” once home to Phelps Dodge International and then BICC Cables Corp., served as a soundstage for number of movies, including “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” “Zoolander,” “Kate and Leopold” and “The Stepford Wives.”
Adviser to the fund is London-based Great Point Media Group, a diversified media and entertainment company owned by Jim Reeve and Robert Halmi (who will also be an investor in the new studios). It has provided investment and arranged financing for more than 50 production companies, with clients including Lionsgate, Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, Google, Universal, AMC, Hallmark, Sony and Paramount.
In addition to producing movies and other entertainment content, Lionsgate has a film and television library with about 17,000 titles.
Lionsgate, which bills itself as “the first major new studio in decades,” was incorporated in British Columbia in 1997 and has its U.S. headquarters in Santa Monica. It has been involved in producing movies on its own, co-productions with other studios and the distribution of films made by others. Among its biggest hits have been “The Hunger Games” and “The Twilight Saga,” both of which became successful franchises with several sequels.
Many of the pictures it handled have been low- or modest-budget productions which have produced modest results at the box office. There also have been box office disappointments such as “Robin Hood,” a $100-million epic which did not live up to expectations. Recently, the movie “John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum” grossed $320 million, according to a company filing in August with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Television has become an important segment of the company’s activities. It bought pay-TV network Starz in 2016, paying a reported $4.4 billion. Starz and the international premium service Starzplay have been profit centers for the company, with a worldwide subscriber base of 26.5 million at the end of the first quarter of the company’s fiscal year on June 30, 2019.
Although reporting FY first quarter revenues of $963.6 million, the company had a net loss of $54 million for the period. Feltheimer characterized the numbers as showing “strong financial results in the quarter and a great start to the fiscal year. All of our businesses are performing well.”
Great Point Capital Management specializes in film and television infrastructure, concentrated on investments in qualified economic opportunity zones. The firm is expanding into new studio businesses in other locations in North America and the United Kingdom.
Zeko has led the banking strategies in global communications, media, entertainment and telecom at Bank of America, Macquarie Capital, Deutsche Bank and Citigroup. Halmi is the founder of the Hallmark Channel and was chairman of Crown Media. Under Halmi’s leadership, Hallmark Entertainment produced over 2,000 hours of original content. Halmi is an active member of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences and serves on the board of the International Emmy Committee. He is also chairman of Great Point Media, a U.K.-based media group.