Netflix is getting a steal on a huge TV and film production facility in Albuquerque, N.M.
Netflix estimates it will make a total capital investment of about $30 million to acquire and improve ABQ Studios, located south of the city’s center, under a deal the streamer announced last week, according to documents filed with the City of Albuquerque. The site’s present assessed value is $22.7 million, according to the Bernalillo County Assessor’s office — less than one-third the original $91 million cost of the facility, which opened in 2007.
“Netflix occupancy, maintenance, and rehabilitation will return the studio to at least the $91M value it cost to build the facility,” according to Netflix’s application for Local Economic Development Act (LEDA) project approval.
In addition, as if the deal needed a sweetener, Netflix is set to receive $14.5 million in government funds for the ABQ Studios purchase ($10 million from the state of New Mexico and $4.5 million from the city of Albuquerque). Furthermore, Netflix’s productions in the state are eligible for a tax credit of up to 30%, under the New Mexico Film Tax Credit Program.
ABQ Studios is part of the larger Mesa del Sol master-planned community — which didn’t take off as hoped when the U.S. housing market collapsed in the late 2000s. The studio facility entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization in 2010, and was acquired the following year by New York-based Amalgamated Bank.
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Tim Keller, mayor of Albuquerque, told Variety that Netflix’s commitment to spend at least $1 billion on productions over a 10-year span is a much more important element of the deal for the local economy.
“It’s going to resuscitate this quarter of the city that’s been stagnant,” Keller said. “The sustained commitment [from Netflix] makes this much different from someone just renting the space.”
The Albuquerque City Council is scheduled to vote on the Netflix proposal at a special meeting Thursday, Oct. 18. Last week, the Albuquerque Development Commission voted unanimously to recommend the council’s approval of the deal.
The ABQ Studios site includes eight sound stages totaling 132,000 square feet of space, plus 100,000 square feet of production offices and support space and a large backlot.
Over the years, ABQ Studios has been home to productions including four seasons of “Breaking Bad,” Marvel’s “The Avengers,” Disney’s “The Lone Ranger,” and “Sicario.”
Netflix currently has two ongoing productions in the Albuquerque area: supernatural drama “Chambers,” starring Uma Thurman, and religious drama “Messiah,” from Mark Burnett and Roma Downey. Together, the two series have provided jobs for over 700 New Mexican crew members. Previous Netflix productions in New Mexico have included limited series “Godless,” Adam Sandler’s “The Ridiculous Six” and “Longmire.”
Netflix’s bid for the Albuquerque facility — which was code-named “Project Zia” — is expected to create 500-1,000 local crew jobs per year throughout the state of New Mexico.
Per Netflix’s proposal, the company expects to occupy and operate the facility starting in October. The company has committed to $600 million in direct spending related to New Mexico on or before Dec. 31, 2023, and an additional $400 million in direct and/or indirect spend related to the facility between Dec. 31, 2023, and the end of 2028. Netflix will incur financial penalties, payable to the city and state, if it falls short of those spending targets (based on the percentage shortfall).
On the Netflix side, negotiations for Project Zia were led by Ty Warren, VP of physical production, along with Jason Hariton, head of worldwide studio operations and real estate, and Rajiv Dalal, head of global production and investment policy (former president of the Association of Film Commissioners International).
For the city, the talks were coordinated by Albuquerque film liaison Alicia J. Keyes, a former Disney international acquisitions exec and independent producer-writer, whom Keller hired earlier in 2018.
ABQ Studios sits on a 28-acre site at 5650 University Blvd. SE, Albuquerque, N.M., less than 15 minutes from the city’s airport (which is a two-hour flight from L.A.).
Keller, Albuquerque’s mayor, said the Netflix deal builds on the state’s efforts to become a world-class entertainment production destination, rivaling Georgia, New Orleans and Michigan after New York and L.A. “We’re sending the signal that Albuquerque is on the rise,” he said, adding that Facebook, Intel and Fidelity Investments also have major operations in the city.
The economic value of the Netflix deal will extend beyond its direct spending on productions, Keller noted. The company’s move into Albuquerque will generate $24 million to $50 million in annual spending on goods and services in the area, according to an economic analysis commissioned from the U. of New Mexico’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research.
The people Netflix employs for its productions will “be buying houses, going to restaurants, and spending at retail” in the city of Albuquerque, Keller said.
Pictured above: Aerial view of ABQ Studios