Showtime? Bronx actor pushes for film studios

Showtime? Bronx actor pushes for film studios
Photo by Ben Kochman

Hey, NBC, check out the Bronx!

One borough thespian is calling on major film and television studios to set up shop in Mott Haven, an area where artists are already flocking.

“Film and TV would compliment this community perfectly,” wrote Gene DeFrancis, artistic director of Bronx-based theatre company Box the Outside Theatre, in an open letter to brass at NBC Universal.

Hot nabe for arts

Though DeFrancis has yet to hear back from the Manhattan-based television giant, he’s convinced that the neighborhood right over the Third Avenue Bridge is ripe for a large-scale studio.

And he’s not alone. The co-owner of a local bar and member of the local community board agreed that a film studio would be a boon to the neighborhood — and be a great bargain for the movie or TV-makers themselves.

“A lot of them are priced out of Manhattan, and Bronx real estate is really attractive,” said Michael Brady, CB 1 member and co-owner of Charlie’s Bar and Kitchen on Lincoln Avenue and Bruckner Boulevard.

“We would certainly welcome them with open arms,” he added.

Development locals can rally around

Businesses have been moving to Mott Haven over the last decade, setting up shop in an area once zoned as industrial. The area just over the bridge from Manhattan now includes popular restaurants like the Bruckner Bar and Grill and sushi joint Ceetay, along with locally owned artist space The Shoppe and flower shop Verde Flowers.

Other buildings remain vacant, and boast the high ceilings and open space that film studios seek.

But right now, only three licensed film studios recognized by the city exist in the borough, according to the mayor’s office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting.

Two studios — LightBox-NY and BankNote —operate in Hunt’s Point. And the True Sound Lounge in Port Morris boasts a 3,500 square foot space for music and video shoots.

That’s a far cry from studio presence in other outer boroughs. Queens boasts the massive Kaufman Astoria Studios and Long Island City’s Silvercup Studios, for example. The Brooklyn Navy Yard is host to Steiner Studios.

DeFrancis hopes the trend will change with a new administration and a new city Film commissioner, Cynthia Lopez.

Locals would embrace a film studio development far more than they did the other main development to rock the area in recent years — the relocation of FreshDirect to the Harlem River Yards at the borough’s southern tip, said DeFrancis, who lives in Allerton but often hosts productions in the area.

“I know it would not face the same resistance as Fresh Direct,” said the actor. “And it would help local business and create real jobs.”

Reach Reporter Ben Kochman at (718) 742–3394. E-mail him at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @benkochman.