New Mexico is subscribing to Netflix.
In a deal announced Monday, the internet production giant announced plans to buy Albuquerque Studios and create up to 1,000 production jobs a year at the facility and on location throughout the state.
To land the deal, New Mexico ponied up $10 million in Local Economic Development Act funds. The city of Albuquerque kicked in another $4.5 million to lure the company to what will be Netflix's first production facility in the United States.
Netflix is a production juggernaut, churning out $8 billion in original content in 2018 for its 130 million subscribers. Its spending dwarfs that of many Hollywood studios, and analysts think it could have 300 million subscribers globally by 2026. Its spending in New Mexico must total $1 billion over the next decade, per the requirements of the state's economic development funding agreement.
Once a DVD-by-mail company that put Blockbuster out of business before the video rental company knew what hit it, Netflix rapidly expanded into streaming, and then opened its own production studios.
"We've been shooting here in New Mexico as far back as 2015," said Ty Warren, Netflix's vice president of physical production, from in front of the set for the company's dramedy Daybreak.
"What we've found is a fantastic infrastructure that exists in New Mexico because to the legacy of production here, including one of the greatest shows of all time and one of my all-time favorites, Breaking Bad," Warren said crediting both the state's natural and manmade locations, as well as experienced crew. "And you can't find that everywhere."
Warren underscored the impact of steady production at the studios for New Mexicans who have been part of the film and television production industry.
"When there's not enough work here, sometimes they need to choose between feeding their families and seeing their families," he said.
"Our film incentive program is working incredibly well," Gov. Susana Martinez told assembled film industry officials and politicians at a Monday news conference to announce the deal, "… not only for the industry, but for our taxpayers as well."
The governor didn't explain the full conditions of the $14.5 million in cash from the state and city, which crafted the agreement together.
Martinez joked that rumors of the deal had been impossible to contain. An Uber driver who brought one of the dealmakers to the studios Monday had unknowingly asked if his passenger knew about the deal.
"Jesus, how does this happen?" Martinez wondered about the leak.
The plan is part of a long about-face for Martinez, who gained office running against the starry-eyed Hollywood overtures of her predecessor, Bill Richardson, and his administration. In her first year, her comments about weaning the state off tax incentives scared off potential production. She soon pivoted, and production has recovered to a large degree.
Martinez worked to cap the amount the state would pay for reimbursements, she told the crowd, touting the limit as a way to prevent cuts to school funding, infrastructure and health care services as production waxed and waned.
Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller called the deal "transformative."
"This is a catalyst for this entire region and for our state," he said, noting he expects $27 million in wages as soon as the deal goes through, peaking at $56 million in five years.
The deal, which was code-named "Helms Bakery" by those trying to keep its inner workings secret from industry-watchers, still needs approval by the Albuquerque City Council.
Santa Fe stands to benefit from the agreement, said Eric Witt, who heads a film office jointly funded by the city and county.
"This is the next stage of our film industry," Witt told SFR at the news conference. "This kind of a commitment from Netflix sends a signal about New Mexico not just in this country, but globally."
Witt, a longtime industry executive, called Netflix's production capacity "almost inconceivable." Its production budget could double all of Hollywood's in some years, he said. The Emmy-winning Godless series and a feature film called Wild, Ride and Rodeo both recently wrapped production for Netflix in Santa Fe, and a third is in production currently at the Garson Studios on the former campus of the Santa Fe University of Art and Design, Witt says.
Witt said he hopes lawmakers and the next governor will look at raising or eliminating the cap on production tax credits, as well as simplifying an incentive program he worried had become difficult both to understand and for the state to administer.
Albuquerque Studios, the largest in New Mexico, opened in 2007. It has eight soundstages, the largest of which are 24,000 square feet—roughly twice the size of the gold depository of Fort Knox. The facility also has an on-site mill for set construction, offices and post-production capabilities.
All told, the studios comprise 28 acres of the Mesa Del Sol community just southeast of Albuquerque.
The studios have been run by Pacifica Ventures since they opened. The Los Angeles-based company has other facilities in Connecticut and Philadelphia, as well as a mobile soundstage business.
This article has been updated to include details about the agreement.