To moviegoers, the intersection of New York real estate and film exists as a loop of timeless screen images. Audrey Hepburn gazes into the Tiffany window. Woody Allen and Diane Keaton sit in the shadow of the 59th Street Bridge. Meg Ryan feigns an orgasm at Katz’s.
Whether their scenes were filmed in the city or recreated on a Burbank soundstage, filmmakers have always relied on New York for the dramatic backdrops that its skyline, landmarks, restaurants, avenues and enviable apartment interiors provide.
But 80-odd years after the entertainment industry decamped for Los Angeles—its persistent warmth and sunshine conducive to long shoots, its sprawl hospitable to mammoth studio lots—an increasing number of Hollywood pros are leaving their temperate backyards and making New York their backlot once again with a handful of transactions for actual brick-and-mortar office spaces across Manhattan.
“I moved to New York eight years ago because of the level of work that was happening here,” said Eric Robertson, the visual effects supervisor at the digital studio Mr. X, which expanded from Toronto to Manhattan last year. “That and the fact that a lot of filmmakers were coming home from L.A. People just want to live here because it’s such a hotbed of creativity. And everyone loves New York.”
Of course, the film and television industry never left the city. John Cassavetes, Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen, Spike Lee and Darren Aronofsky are just a few homegrown cinematic bards who preferred to stay put. New York University’s Maurice Kanbar Institute of Film and Television famously churns out indie darlings. And quintessential New York TV series like Law & Order andSex and the City were produced locally to gritty and glossy effect—even if Seinfeld was shot in Studio City.
But over the past decade, cultural, economic and political forces have coalesced to bolster New York’s reputation as Hollywood East.