Shared vision: Busson details why he’s building 1888 Studios in Bayonne — and why he feels others should come to N.J.

Global entrepreneur says government support — which includes $400M Aspire award — can be magnet to rebuild sector that was created in state more than a century ago

When he stood on the land for the first time in 2019, the 54-acre parcel in Bayonne that had been dormant since it served the petroleum industry, global entrepreneur Arki Busson couldn’t believe what he saw.

“There was an incredible view of the skyline of New York City,” he started. “And, when I looked around, I could see the Port of New York and New Jersey, the Bayonne Bridge — which had just finished its renovation — and a Panamax ship (the biggest container ships around) coming down the river. It was incredible.”

It was enough to convince Busson that his vision of creating an old-time production studio — one designed with Bayonne’s historic connection to the film industry in mind — was realistic.

But, it was only part of the plan to create what will become 1888 Studios.

Busson needed the government to share his vision.

“I have done a lot of public-private partnerships around the world, and I can tell you, they don’t work unless you have the buy-in from government,” he said. “That’s the case here.

“The state has been committed since Day One. The governor has been relentless. His enthusiasm and willingness to work with us has never wavered. The same is true for Tim Sullivan and the (Economic Development Authority), Mayor (Jimmy) Davis in Bayonne and the Legislature — Sen. (Raj) Mukherji, Sen. (John) McKeon and Assemblywoman (Eliana) Pintor-Marin. They all played a big part in this.”

That support was never so evident as it was on Wednesday, when the board of the EDA approved an Aspire tax incentive award of up to $400 million to help build 1888 Studios, a campus-style production studio featuring 23 megapowered smart sound stages ranging from 18,000 to 60,000 square feet with 40- to 50-foot-height ceilings, as well as more than 350,000 square feet of production support space.

The development also will include more than five acres of public space, featuring a waterfront walkway adjacent to Newark Bay and a public park.

Busson said the goal is to be completed by 2026. When it is finished, it will be the largest such studio in the Northeast. More than that, it will be Busson’s first.


A noted hedge fund investor who has been worth billions and had high-profile relationships wtih celebrities, Busson has dabbled in numerous industries around the globe — but never film production.

An article convinced him he should.

“Because I’m in finance, I look at a lot of different opportunities, different sectors, on a macro level,” he said. “When I started to hear the amount of dollars that was going into content, I wanted to get an understanding of where these dollars were going.

“There was an article in the Economist that said there was going to be more money spent on content than oil and gas, so I started to look at it even more. I quickly understood that infrastructure was a most important piece.”

That’s what he found in New Jersey, he said.

The views are great, the government support is vital — but an ecosystem is everything, Busson said.

“The most important thing about production are the crews,” he said. “There’s a huge talent pool of behind-the-scenes talent that lives in New Jersey. About 30% of the crews that serve as New York come from New Jersey — everything from the seamstresses who do the costumes to the lighting and sound specialists to the editors and the post-production personnel.

“This talent pool is what enables the state to build the infrastructure. It will enable New Jersey to build an industry not just a studio.”

The state is attempting to do just that.

Busson’s project is just one of three major initiatives in place right now, including Lionsgate Newark Studios, a 12-acre project coming to the South Ward, and Netflix at Fort Monmouth, both of which are taking advantage of tax incentives.

“The tax incentives show that the state understands what it needs to do to build an ecosystem,” Busson said. “They are building an ecosystem that can compete with anywhere.”


Busson was born in France, has residences throughout Europe and business interests all over the world. He’s a student of history. Especially when it comes to New Jersey’s connection to motion pictures.

It’s not just the name of the facility, 1888 Studios — a recognition of the year Thomas Edison invented the first motion picture camera — it’s his grasp of Bayonne’s place in the industry’s origins.

Busson talks about the Horsley brothers, William and David, who founded the Centaur Film Co. in Bayonne in 1907, the first film studio in the country. He details how and why the brothers moved to Hollywood, creating the company that would become Universal Pictures.

He sees no reason why New Jersey cannot become the present-day destination for the industry.

“Having one, two or three studios is not enough,” he said. “New Jersey can build out the whole ecosystem because all the service providers, all the vendors, all the behind-the-scenes personnel are here.”

Busson said he’s eager to do his part.

“There is all this creativity to help us rebuild this industry in the Garden State,” he said. “To have the trust of the governor and the Legislature is an incredible privilege.”

He couldn’t be happier to do it in Bayonne.

For Busson, it goes back to that first visit, when he was surveying the scene with Davis.

“From Day One, Mayor Davis saw the opportunity,” he said. “It’s great to have the support of the state, but to also have it at the city level is incredible. He has really put the full force of the city behind this. That’s why I know this will be a great success.”