Grand Island native introduces plan for 'first true Hollywood movie lot in Buffalo'

Oct 29, 2020

A Western New York native who worked two decades writing and producing numerous Hollywood-based television shows is leading an effort to construct a production facility on a 27-acre plot in Buffalo's Riverbend area.

Matt Fleckenstein's writing and producing credits include the shows Family Guy, iCarly and WordGirl, just to name a few. Now, after living in Los Angeles for nearly two decades, he wants to open a large production complex on South Park Avenue to create local jobs in the industry.

"This is a city that was literally built on building on making things. It's a city filled with people who are not afraid to roll up their sleeves and do the work and get their hands dirty. But when called upon, they're equally willing to lend a hand," he said, standing inside a vacant office space adjacent to the 27 acres on which he and his partners plan to build Buffalo Studios. "And that is why Buffalo is an amazing city for the film industry. It's why the film industry has come. It's why they keep coming back. And it's why Buffalo Studios is happy to be a part of continuing to bring them back, to grow the industry in Buffalo, to be a part of Buffalo's future trajectory."

The plan calls for construction of six soundstages, ranging from 12,000 square feet to 20,000 square feet, a covered alleyway connecting four of those soundstages, administrative space, and something Fleckenstein says will make this complex unique: immediate access to the Buffalo River.

"Not only is it a great resource for productions to shoot against, they can get on the river," he said. "We will build new docks, they can get on the river to shoot. In a couple minutes, you're out in Lake Erie. It's an unparalleled asset that is going to be much of the draw to Buffalo Studios."

He noted that conversations have been held with Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper, to assure the latter productions will work to protect the ecological health of the waterway.

This is the second plan for a major production center announced within the past five months. In late June, Great Point Capital Management announced its plan to construct a $50 million facility on Niagara Street near Rich Products.

The City of Buffalo has come to take pride in its film industry and seeks to grow it, even as it seeks to emerge from the COVID pandemic. Brendan Mehaffy, executive director of the Office of Strategic Planning in Mayor Byron Brown's administration, says Thursday's announcement and the one in June confirm developers' faith in Buffalo's continuing resurgence.

"Today's announcement reinforces that Buffalo is a destination for filmmakers, and people want to come here, they want to make movies," he said. "And they want to train others to do the same, which again is what makes this so special."

Fleckenstein and his partners hope the center will be a draw for producers looking to make episodic television programs. It will also offer educational opportunities for local students interested in the film industry.

The studio, he added, will also be union-friendly, noting his own union affiliations with his Hollywood jobs.

The project is estimated at $75 million, funded through private backers and construction loans. Tax breaks were not yet secured as of Thursday but are still being explored.

The target for completion and opening of Buffalo Studios is late 2022.