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Kaufman Astoria Studios

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Paramount Studios Complex
NYC Landmark #0977
Kaufman Astoria Studios
Kaufman Astoria Studios is located in New York City
Kaufman Astoria Studios
Kaufman Astoria Studios is located in New York
Kaufman Astoria Studios
Kaufman Astoria Studios is located in the United States
Kaufman Astoria Studios
Location35th Ave., 35th, 36th, and 37th Sts., Astoria, Queens, New York City
Coordinates40°45′27.74″N 73°55′25.77″W / 40.7577056°N 73.9238250°W / 40.7577056; -73.9238250Coordinates: 40°45′27.74″N 73°55′25.77″W / 40.7577056°N 73.9238250°W / 40.7577056; -73.9238250

Area5 acres (2.0 ha)
NRHP reference #78001897[1]
NYCL #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[edit]

The studio was originally constructed for Famous Players-Lasky in 1920 to provide the company with a facility close to the Broadway theater district. 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 whose films were released through Paramount[3] or other Hollywood film companies. All the films starring Tango icon Carlos Gardel made in the United States were shot at the Kaufman Astoria. 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 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.

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.[4]

21st century[edit]

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.[5]

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.[6]

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.[7]

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.[8][9] Construction could begin in 2023.[10]

Notable productions[edit]

Motion pictures filmed there include the musicals Hair, The Music Man 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,[11] 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 pilots 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[edit]

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.



  1. 1.0 1.1 National Park Service (2009-03-13). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.
  2. 2.0 2.1 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. "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. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help) 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
  4. Bennetts, Leslie (1983-08-03). "Astoria Studio Revives Film Era in New York". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-07-23.
  5. 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.
  6. "Sesame Street Wedding". Studio Times. Kaufman Astoria Studios. Summer 2009. Archived from the original on 2009-07-27. Retrieved 2009-10-25. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  7. Al Barbarino (22 April 2014). "Kaufman Astoria Studios to Build Eighth Studio". Commercial Observer.
  8. Loria, Keith (July 2, 2020). "Kaufman, Silverstein and Bedrock Unveil $2B Development in Astoria". Commercial Observer. Retrieved July 7, 2020.
  9. Brand, David (July 2, 2020). "Developers propose new five-block residential district near Astoria's Kaufman Studios". Queens Daily Eagle. Retrieved July 7, 2020.
  10. Weaver, Shaye (July 6, 2020). "This massive $2 billion cultural hub could be coming to Astoria". Time Out New York. Retrieved July 7, 2020.
  11. Cassandra Munoz (2013-12-06). "Film Locations: Orange is the New Black". Untapped New York. Retrieved 2020-09-09.

Further reading

External links[edit]