Kaufman Astoria Studios

Last updated
Paramount Studios Complex
NYC Landmark  No. 0977
Kaufman Studio 35 Av 35 St sun jeh.jpg
Kaufman Astoria Studios
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Location35th Ave., 35th, 36th, and 37th Sts., Astoria, Queens, New York City
Coordinates 40°45′27.74″N73°55′25.77″W / 40.7577056°N 73.9238250°W / 40.7577056; -73.9238250 Coordinates: 40°45′27.74″N73°55′25.77″W / 40.7577056°N 73.9238250°W / 40.7577056; -73.9238250
Area5 acres (2.0 ha)
NRHP reference No. 78001897 [1]
NYCL No.0977
Significant dates
Added to NRHPNovember 14, 1978
Designated NYCLMarch 14, 1978

The Kaufman Astoria Studios is a film studio located in the Astoria section of the New York City borough of Queens. The studio was constructed for Famous Players-Lasky in 1920, since it was close to Manhattan's Broadway theater district. The property was taken over by real estate developer George S. Kaufman in 1982 and renamed Kaufman Astoria Studios.


The studio is home to New York City's only backlot, which opened in December 2013. [2] The property was designated a national historic district and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.


20th century

The studio was originally constructed for Famous Players-Lasky in 1920 to provide the company with a facility close to the Broadway theater district. [3] Many features and short subjects were filmed there between 1920 and 1933. The first Sherlock Holmes sound film, The Return of Sherlock Holmes (also 1929), was made at the studio by the British producer Basil Dean. The Dance of Life (1929) was a film musical shot on sound stages, with most exterior scenes filmed on a back lot that existed at that time. The first two films featuring the Marx Brothers, The Cocoanuts (1929) and Animal Crackers (1930), were shot at the Astoria Studio. It was also known as the Paramount Studio.

After Paramount Pictures moved all studio operations to California in 1932, the Astoria location was turned over to independent producers, including Walter Wanger, whose films were released through Paramount [4] or other Hollywood film companies. All the films starring tango icon Carlos Gardel made in the United States were shot at Astoria Studios. Gloria Swanson cites the studio as, "the studio where I'd been making all of my pictures since 1923" in her autobiography Swanson on Swanson. In 1938, ...One Third of a Nation... was the last feature film to be shot there during that era. [3]

In 1942, the United States Army Signal Corps Army Pictorial Service took over the studio for the making of Army training and indoctrination films until 1971, including The Big Picture that was shown on American television as a network television series.

In 1975, the studio opened again for shooting on Thieves . [3] The property was designated a national historic district and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. The district encompasses six contributing buildings. [1] In 1982, the property was taken over by real estate developer George S. Kaufman and renamed Kaufman Astoria Studios. [5]

21st century

The former 36th Street, gated as a back lot since 2014 Kaufman gate 36 St 35 Av jeh.jpg
The former 36th Street, gated as a back lot since 2014

Kaufman Astoria Studios has seven sound stages including the new Stage K, designed by the Janson Design Group. [6]

In 2008, Martin P. Robinson, who plays Mr. Snuffleupagus, Telly Monster, and Slimey the Worm on Sesame Street , married Annie Evans, a writer for the show on the Sesame Street set. The ceremony was performed on the steps of 123 Sesame Street and the reception was held throughout the rest of the set. [7]

On December 3, 2013, a 34,800 square foot backlot was dedicated. It is the only studio backlot in New York City. [2] In 2014, Kaufman Astoria Studios announced plans to build a new 18,000-square-foot sound stage on its Astoria campus within two years. [8]

In 2020, Kaufman Astoria Studios announced a five-block redevelopment project around the studio, in conjunction with Larry Silverstein, Bedrock Real Estate, and ODA Architecture. The area would be called Innovation QNS and stretch from 37th to 43rd Streets from 35th to 36th Avenues. The project, to cost $2 billion, would add 2,700 residential units, 200,000 square feet (19,000 m2) for shops and restaurants, and 250,000 square feet (23,000 m2) for creative industries. [9] [10] Construction could begin in 2023. [11]

Notable productions

Motion pictures filmed there include the musicals Hair and The Wiz , and the films Goodfellas and Carlito's Way . In 1984, The Jacksons' music video "Torture" was filmed there as well. The 1986 movie The Money Pit starring Tom Hanks and Shelley Long. Many sequences, especially the 'visitation' sequence in 2002 TV mini series Angels in America , were also shot there. A 2009 remake, The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 , also used the studios. In 2011, the remake of Arthur filmed a few scenes there.

Television shows filmed at the studio include Sesame Street , Orange Is The New Black , [12] Onion News Network , Johnny and the Sprites , Between the Lions , The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss , Oobi , Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego , and its successor Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego? Other projects recorded at the studios have included Judge Judy , Power of 10 , The Cosby Show , Cosby , The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd , Swans Crossing , Law & Order , Million Dollar Password , the 2009 pilot of The $1,000,000 Pyramid , Video Power , Spin City , and Mariah Carey's MTV Unplugged . WFAN, a local sports radio station owned by Audacy, was formerly based at the studio before moving to lower Manhattan in the fall of 2009.

Performers' images

The walls of the studio are lined with signed images of the performers who have worked in the studios, including Milton Berle, Frank Sinatra, The Marx Brothers, Ginger Rogers, George Burns, Lena Horne, Ethel Merman, Paul Robeson, Lillian Gish, Claudette Colbert, Gloria Swanson, Maurice Chevalier, Jeanette MacDonald, Diana Ross, and Jerry Orbach.

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  1. 1 2 "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places . National Park Service. March 13, 2009.
  2. 1 2 Joe Anuta (3 December 2013). "Kaufman Astoria Studios grows Hollywood-style backlot and matching gate - Crain's New York Business". Crain's New York Business.
  3. 1 2 3 "Old Par Studio in Astoria Gets Ritual Revival". Variety . November 12, 1975. p. 3. Retrieved June 26, 2022 via Archive.org.
  4. "Cultural Resource Information System (CRIS)". New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Archived from the original (Searchable database) on 2015-07-01. Retrieved 2016-08-01.Note: This includes Elizabeth Spencer-Ralph (August 1978). "National Register of Historic Places Registration Form: Paramount Studios Complex" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-08-01. and Accompanying 12 photographs
  5. Bennetts, Leslie (1983-08-03). "Astoria Studio Revives Film Era in New York". The New York Times. ISSN   0362-4331 . Retrieved 2020-07-23.
  6. Levere, Jane L. (June 11, 2008). "Square Feet: A Big New York City Movie Studio Is Getting Bigger". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-04-12.
  7. "Sesame Street Wedding". Studio Times. Kaufman Astoria Studios. Summer 2009. Archived from the original on 2009-07-27. Retrieved 2009-10-25.
  8. Al Barbarino (22 April 2014). "Kaufman Astoria Studios to Build Eighth Studio". Commercial Observer.
  9. Loria, Keith (July 2, 2020). "Kaufman, Silverstein and Bedrock Unveil $2B Development in Astoria". Commercial Observer. Retrieved July 7, 2020.
  10. Brand, David (July 2, 2020). "Developers propose new five-block residential district near Astoria's Kaufman Studios". Queens Daily Eagle. Retrieved July 7, 2020.
  11. Weaver, Shaye (July 6, 2020). "This massive $2 billion cultural hub could be coming to Astoria". Time Out New York. Retrieved July 7, 2020.
  12. Cassandra Munoz (2013-12-06). "Film Locations: Orange is the New Black". Untapped New York. Retrieved 2020-09-09.

Further reading