Strong value: N.J. group feels 2-day pitch to Hollywood studios went well

Sullivan tells studio leaders at Disney, Sony, Universal and more: ‘In New Jersey, you’re never going to be embarrassed about where you’re doing business’

They talked about how the state has great spots for both urban and suburban shots — not to mention the Shore and the Pine Barrens. They talked about the tax credits, which may be bigger (and last longer) than any other state. And they discussed the multitude of brick-and-mortar studios that are in the works.

But, when New Jersey Economic Development Authority CEO Tim Sullivan led a group of five on a two-day, six-stop tour of Hollywood studios on Tuesday and Wednesday, the subject that seemed to impress the most was the state’s values.

“Something that mattered a lot was our values,” he said. “We had a presentation that showed our rankings on things like a women’s right to choose, gun safety, public school education and LGBTQ+ support. It really resonated.

“One of the things we said to folks was, ‘In New Jersey, you’re never going to have to apologize to your talent for something that the governor said or did — and you’re never going to be embarrassed about where you’re doing business.’

“And that resonated a lot, because we’re in competition with a lot of states who are not on the right side of history.”

Sullivan was joined on the trip by Kathleen Coviello (chief economic transformation officer at the EDA), Eric Brophy (deputy chief of staff for economic growth to the governor) and Elizabeth Parchment and Dan Bryan of the New Jersey Motion Picture and Television Commission, which recently came under the guidance of the EDA.

The group, which landed early Tuesday, made six stops — at Disney, Warner Bros., Netflix, Universal, Sony and the Motion Picture Association of America.

Sullivan said they met with approximately 100 officials who were production managers and finance leaders.

“The folks who make the decisions about exactly where products are going to get filmed,” he said. “It was an old-fashioned shoe-leather marketing effort.”

Sullivan said the timing was right, because it came so quickly after the numerous Hollywood strikes were resolved. In addition, it was a follow-up to the two trips Gov. Phil Murphy and first lady Tammy Murphy had made previously, when they met with numerous CEOs of studios.

“We were reintroducing New Jersey or reminding people who we are and what we have going on — and we have all the attributes needed to make the case.”

Including a track record. In 2022, the state did more than $700 million in on-location film shoots — up from $70 million from the year previously.

“We’re having a big economic impact already — and that only grows when you bring in the brick-and-mortar studios.”

From Lionsgate Studios in Newark (which aims to break ground soon) to the Netflix project at Fort Monmouth, 1888 Studios in Bayonne and possibilities in West Orange and Carteret, New Jersey has a lot of studios coming.

Those studios will do more than film. While movies bring a big bang for the bucks, TV shows can be just as valuable, if they are able to last multiple seasons. The reason the state extended the film tax credits out to 2039 (believed to be the longest in the nation) was to give production companies greater certainty when planning.

“We think that’s a real differentiator for us,” Sullivan said.

As are the tax credits. Sullivan said there is evidence they already are paying off.

At one stop, Sullivan said a studio that he would not reveal told them they chose Jersey City over New York City because New Jersey made the money go farther.

“I can’t say who it is yet, but you’ll hear about it soon enough,” he said. “It will be a big film with big stars.”