NJ approves record-high $33M tax break for NBC’s ‘The Equalizer’

Daniel J. Munoz//July 19, 2021

NJ approves record-high $33M tax break for NBC’s ‘The Equalizer’

Daniel J. Munoz//July 19, 2021

New Jersey approved a record-setting $32.8 million film and television production subsidy to NBCUniversal Television for its season one production of the drama series “The Equalizer.”

NBCUniversal is getting the massive award for production between November 2020 and this May at its studios at the former site of the Izod Center in the Meadowlands, according to a board resolution the New Jersey Economic Development Authority approved on July 14.

Officials at NBCUniversal were not immediately available for comment. But, the media giant has been the recipient of the largest tax breaks under the program, public records show.

In 2019, it received nearly $14.4 million for its season one production in East Rutherford of “The Enemy Within,” and an $11.2 million award for the Kearny production of “Little America” – the program’s second and third-largest ever tax break awards, respectively.

All thing’s being equal

Actress, singer and rapper Queen Latifah, an Essex County native, will star in the crime drama series set in the 1980s and premiering this October. She’ll play the role of the main character Robyn McCall, a single mother and former CIA agent based in New York City.

Shots of the series were filmed in Jersey City last year, according to the city’s official Twitter account.

“I think Black women have been equalizing for years and years and years,” Latifah said at a virtual press conference based at the former Izod Center, according to various media outlets. “And that’s from Hatshepsut to Stacey Abrams to Kamala Harris to my mother to my grandmother.”

“So, for me, seeing a Black woman equalize is not a new thing. I think seeing it on network TV once every week may be a little newer,” she said.

The state’s film and television industry – largely dormant during the COVID-19 closures over the fall and winter – has seen a major rebound starting this spring as vaccination efforts were ramped up and pandemic restrictions loosened, according to state executives and industry insiders.

“This really is a gold rush,” said Tom Bernard, co-president and co-founder of Sony Pictures, who sits on the New Jersey Motion Picture and Television Commission. Sites to film, locations or studios, are in high demand.

Coming soon

In a recent interview, Steven Gorelick, head of the NJMPTC, ticked off a long list of projects underway in the state, and the addition of new studios that should ensure productions keep coming here.

The Hulu series “Wu-Tang: An American Saga” is being filmed across Passaic, Essex and Hudson counties. NBC’s drama series “Law and Order: Organized Crime” is being filmed in Edison, Newark and Wayne. A remake of the 2014 film “Goodnight Mommy” is being filmed in Bedminster and will feature actress Naomi Watts in a lead role.

Studio sites, too, are seeing a surge in interest from producers, and supply is being stretched thin.

“It’s getting to the point where we probably don’t have – not to say we can’t find space, but we’re running out of room,” said Nick Shears, who heads leasing and marketing for the 130-acre Kearny Point site, an office space and business center. “It’s a good problem to have.”