New Mexico’s version of Hollywood is about to get bigger.
Netflix, which purchased Albuquerque Studios in 2018 with a goal of turning it into a major film production hub, announced plans Monday for a massive expansion of the facility and its commitment to spend at least $1 billion on productions in the state over the next decade.
The estimated $150 million expansion will add 300 acres to the studio property, in part through a lease with the Stand Land Office, and will include 10 new stages, post-production and training facilities, wardrobe suites, a commissary for meals, and other buildings. The construction project is expected to employ nearly 1,500 workers, the New Mexico Economic Development Department announced in a news release.
Over the next decade, the expanded production hub could create 1,000 new film industry jobs, the agency said.
Netflix Co-CEO Ted Sarandos said in a statement, “New Mexico provides an outstanding production and business environment in close proximity to Los Angeles with some of the best crews and creative talent in the world. The expansion will bring many new high-tech and production jobs to the region.
“It allows us to be more nimble in executing our production plans while cementing the status of the region as one of the leading production centers in North America.”
Netflix plans to buy 170 acres of private land and lease about 130 acres from the State Land Office, according to the news release.
“Netflix is expanding its footprint,” Economic Development Cabinet Secretary Alicia Keyes said in an interview Monday, adding a state funding deal has been in the works for about six months.
The state will provide up to $17 million in Local Economic Development Act grant funds, while the city of Albuquerque will provide another $7 million in LEDA funds, which includes a $6 million in-kind contribution of infrastructure to support the deal, the news release said.
The city also will issue an industrial revenue bond for tax abatement over a 20-year term for the first $500 million of Netflix’s investment in the production facility.
Along with developing a training program for film workers, Netflix will create a program to support Native American, African American and Latino filmmakers, Keyes said. The details of that portion of the deal are still being worked out, she added.
Jessica Hoffman, field representative for the local film technicians union, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 480, said the union had no comment on the deal.
Keyes said the Netflix expansion spotlights the importance of the TV and movie industry in New Mexico. “Film is considered a pretty recession-safe industry,” she said. “I think it provides much more diversity to our economy outside of oil and gas and tourism and retail.”
Film production has long been a cornerstone of the state’s economic platform, bringing in hundreds of millions of dollars in direct spending and employing hundreds of residents on film crews.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on the industry.
According to the Economic Development Department, about 80 productions were shot in New Mexico in fiscal year 2020, which ended in June, bringing in about $275 million in spending. That’s a significant drop from the $525.5 million the state received in direct spending from film productions in fiscal year 2019.
Netflix productions currently shooting in New Mexico include The Harder They Fall and Intrusion. Netflix plans to shoot the fourth season of Stranger Things in Albuquerque soon.
Western film The Harder They Fall had to shut down because of COVID-19 infection rates on the set and concerns about the virus’s spread.
Keyes said the film industry has been aggressive when it comes to following COVID-safe practices. “They cannot risk having an outbreak because when they shut down for a day, it costs hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions,” she said.
More than 23,000 film industry workers in New Mexico have been tested for COVID-19 and 46 were positive, Keyes said.
“They have put out strict protocols,” Keyes said. “We can’t even get on a set unless we are tested twice.”