Mayor Edward I. Koch threw a lavish lawn party here Wednesday evening to celebrate film and television production in New York City, even as a cloud of uncertainty about the immediate future of the local industry rolled by.
“I want to thank all of you who do more and more each year to make our city a booming center for television and film production,” Koch told the several hundred members of the local industry gathered on the sprawling, verdant lawn of Gracie Mansion, the mayor’s official residence overlooking the East River. “This is the city where the film and television industries began, and this is the city where their future lies,” he said.
The skies were clear as the mayor spoke, followed by director Martin Scorsese and actor Robert De Niro, among others.
However, following the formal remarks, as Matt Dillon, Glenn Close, Christopher Walken, Brian De Palma, Paul Schrader and others lingered on the lawn over drinks, the skies became clouded. And so did some of the conversations, by what several of those interviewed called the suspense about what next week may bring.
According to Koch, total production expenditures here in 1986 reached a record $2.3 billion; in 1985, that figure was $2.03 billion. Koch said that 94 theatrical feature films were shot here last year, compared to 85 in 1985. In 1986, he said, 98 TV movies, series and specials were shot in New York, compared to 95 in 1985.
“The resurgence of production here continues, but it is not a true statement to say that things are better than ever at this particular moment,” said Sam Robert, coordinator of the local Council of Motion Picture and Television Unions.
Referring to the resurgence that began in the ‘60s and which has skyrocketed under the Koch administration, Robert said three factors currently are causing “concern and suspense": the possibility of a strike next week by the Directors Guild of America that would halt all major production here and elsewhere; loss of production to Canada, caused in part by fears of a possible DGA strike, and a growing tension between local television unions and the three major TV networks.