By Christmas 2019, millions of anticipated filmgoers will be viewing Broad and Market Streets in Newark, New Jersey, as the 1970s set of the fictional Gotham City, home of DC Comics characters Batman and The Joker.
Newark was also the host city of the movie set of the 2010 Batman movie The Dark Knight Rises. In the fall of 2018, movie producers returned to Newark with a budget of about $55 million for the taping of the highly anticipated Joker movie, which follows the journey of the infamous DC Comics villain—played this time by Joaquin Phoenix—from a failed comedian to a life of crime.
For the movie, downtown Newark was made to look like it was the late 1970s with signs reading “Live Nude Girls,” “Strip Search Featuring the Finest Adult Stars,” and “Kenny’s Music Shop.” The set was designed to portray a grim, seedy part of Gotham City with piles of mock garbage; wet streets; smoke; and dark, muted colored wardrobe selections for the actors.
“When a set comes to the city, it brings dollars to businesses, jobs for residents, and notoriety to the city. It just gives the city a whole different color. It’s important to have a thriving film industry because there are a lot of benefits. Some of it can be measured materially, but some is immeasurable,” says Mayor Ras Baraka.
Another testament to the growing interest filmmakers are taking in Newark is the Newark International Film Festival, which recently celebrated three consecutive years of bringing over 100 independent films from over 50 countries. This year’s three-day festival was packed with film premieres, celebrity master classes, and celebrity Q&A panels. Lance Gross served as the event’s celebrity ambassador.
In 2018 New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy restored the New Jersey Film and TV Tax Credit, approving a program that credits production companies $75 million per fiscal year for film and television projects. In order to be eligible for the 30% tax credit, production companies must spend a minimum of one million dollars or 60% of the total production budget in New Jersey. This credit had previously been suspended by former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.
Since the reinstatement of the Film and TV Tax Credit, shows like NBC’s The Enemy Within and the return of MTV’s Jersey Shore have filmed in Newark. “There are a lot more productions coming in but we just can’t talk about them yet,” shared David Schoner Jr., associate director of the New Jersey Motion Picture and TV Commission.
Over the past five years, Newark’s film industry has been on a steady rise, attracting other TV productions, including Spike TV’s Ink Master and BET’s Black Girls Rock awards show.