Why Netflix chose New Mexico for its new production studio

Photo Credit SquidTalon.com

Netflix is coming! To New Mexico?

As early as January of next year, Netflix will start hiring film crews, background talent, craft services and all those other people who make shows and movies happen. All because they’ve decided it wise to come to New Mexico and buy a production facility in Albuquerque — the first studio the streaming company has purchased.

Netflix announced the plan to buy ABQ Studios back in October and not only will they make movies and series on the massive lot, they’ll be pointing their cameras at scenery and actors all across the Land of Enchantment.

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Netflix/Godless

But, why New Mexico?

I’ve lived here 7 years. I understand the question. People who’ve never been wonder if this is still part of Mexico. On the phone with a customer sales rep, I was once asked, “They use pesos in New Mexico?” God’s truth.

But there are actually very good reasons why Netflix chose New Mexico.

Consider why Hollywood became the center of the film and TV universe in the first place. It wasn’t a fluke. Aside from trying to avoid Thomas Edison, film studios chose Los Angeles because it was sunny, without the hurricanes and humidity of places like Florida or New Orleans.

Downtown LA, which is about 7 miles from Sunset and Gower (an easy marker for the epicenter of Hollywood’s physical location inside Los Angeles) gets about 292 days of sunshine a year.

Albuquerque? An average of 278.

Back before WW1, when Hollywood was becoming Hollywood, land was cheap and plentiful. Anyone who’s been to Los Angeles lately and tried to rent an apartment there knows cheap and plentiful is no longer the case. Today, the average home in LA costs around $682,600 and LA County is now the most densely populated area in the country. On the other hand, New Mexico is the 5th largest state by area, and only 5 states have a lower population density. A house in Albuquerque averages just under $200k.

Basically: there’s a lot of land here, most of it empty, and whatever’s not empty costs about a third of what it does in Hollywood.

So now you’re wondering:

But, why New Mexico?

Seriously? I just told you.

But ok. Hollywood won out in the early days of cinema because it was a short drive to so many different terrains: cities, beaches, deserts, mountains. New Mexico has all that too. (Well, except beaches.) But go from the ponderosa forests of Taos to the vast moonscape of White Sands and you’ll feel like you travelled cross-country, if not internationally or interplanetarally.

Check out ABQ Studios Location LookBook for New Mexico settings that look like everything from Midwest small town America to Tuscany to Big City USA to Tijuana to Middle Earth.

So far New Mexico has done nicely as a stand-in for Afghanistan (Whiskey Tango Foxtrot) Iraq (Jarhead, Men Who Stare at Goats) Mexico (We’re the Millers) the post-apocalypse (Book of Eli, Terminator 2, Terminator Salvation) and just about any old west town you can think of (Young Guns, True Grit, High Noon, 3:10 to Yuma [2007], Hang ‘Em High).

And NM does just fine for plain old suburban cityscapes too (Better Call Saul, Sunshine Cleaning). And hey, if Los Angeles can stand in for Haddonfield, Illinois, Albuquerque can be whatever it wants to be.

Even though classics like Easy Rider and Two-Lane Blacktop and acclaimed films like No Country for Old Men and Hell or High Water were famously filmed in the Land of Enchantment, what most people think of vis-a-vis the “filmed in New Mexico” topic is a dark TV series about a science teacher turned meth cook in AMC’s Breaking Bad.

The New Mexican sky basically had its own cast credit.

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Breaking Bad/AMC

Don’t forget about the money

While the locations and scenery in NM are beautiful as all get out, another reason those titles landed here is the tasty tax incentive the state offers to series and film productions.

And all those films taking place in NM means that there’s a sturdy backbone of production resources already set up. And word is Julia Roberts has a house up in Taos, while Cormac McCarthy and George R.R. Martin call this place home, so the state’s got some legit talent cred.

Now we’ve just got one question…

According to the deal Netflix signed, they have agreed to spend $600 million in the next five years on its own productions, plus another $400 million in “other spending” which will include leasing the studios to other productions and other indirect expenditures. They’ve agreed to operate the studio for at least 10 years and will spend over $2 million improving the facilities.

What all that ultimately means, is a major influx of film and series productions, with a commensurate influx of people either relocating to, or spending a decent amount of time in el Nuevo Mexico.

So prepare yourself, newcomers. Hang a ristra in your portal, set up your farolitos, walk around eating a frito pie and be ready to answer the eternal, ubiquitous, infamously famous New Mexico question:

Red or green?

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La Choza Restaurant/lachozasf.com