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TBT Lost Opportunity: Movie Studios in Harrison

May 19, 2022
Charles F. Guyon Crucilbe Steel Building

Yesterday (May 18, 2022), New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy announced a $100 million television and production studio complex in neighboring Newark.  Lionsgate Newark will occupy a 15-acre lot where the Seth Boyden public housing was previously located before it was demolished by the City of Newark.  The announcement brought back memories from the late 1990s of another movie studio proposal closer to home in Harrison NJ.

Twenty-four years ago in 1998 movie producers ahead of their times but backed by skittish financiers toyed with the idea of building production studios in Harrison.  In retrospect, they would have cashed in and during the Covid pandemic had the safest studios in the nation.

In 1998, first came Larry Meistrich, President of the Shooting Gallery, an independent filmmaking company based in the SOHO section of New York City.  Appropriately, the Redevelopment Area in Harrison has been nicknamed SOHA for Southern Harrison by Harrisonians who have moved into luxury apartments where Larry Meistrich stood during an interview with Zev Barow of the New Yorker Magazine to discuss his plan to build a Movie Studio in Harrison.

From 1999 to 2000 Miramax, a Walt Disney Company, Robert DeNiro and his TriBeCa Productions, and Harvey Weinstein had plans to build a Movie Studio in one of the Crucible Steel buildings last occupied by Charles F. Guyon on South Frank E. Rodgers and Cape May Street.  The proposed studio would have occupied a building whose life expectancy was infinity according to the Town of Harrison’s Master Plan.

Why was the building’s life expectancy infinity? It is infinity because its Carnegie Steel beams covered with 20-foot deep brick walls on its exterior walls were designed to allow a built-in-crane 100 feet up in the air to carry steel from one end of the building to the other end without breaking a sweat.  Crucible Steel produced plate steel and munitions during World War I and World War II. What stories could have been told if the walls could speak. 

The building was an open space consisting of 103,000 square feet of cavernous space with no columns.  Ultimately, no one moved forward with a movie studio in Harrison..  A Soccer Arena was Plan B and that came to fruition.

A shame because Larry Meistrich, Robert DeNiro, and Harvey Weinstein’s instincts were correct.  The building costs would have been far less because there was already a building within which a full movie production studio could be housed.  There were adjacent buildings that could have been expanded into. A building whose life span was infinite would have been a perfect home for a movie production studio complex.  Too bad they did not get together and fund it.

It is not however too late.  The principal building of Crucible steel is no longer available as the wrecking balls and torches took down history and replaced it with luxury apartment buildings with names paying homage to the real thing like Steelworks, Cobalt Lofts, Vermella Harrison and down the block Urby and 330 Harrison Station. None of these buildings have a life expectancy of infinity. Nobody expects them to. 

There are however similar buildings still standing nearby owned by the a long time Harrison business, Joseph Supor and Sons (Supor) that occupies another former industrial building zone in Harrison for its heavy hauling and crane service business, the former Worthington Pump complex, that would make an ideal movie studio location.  It is already set off from the residential area of town behind walls that would block any noise from a movie production company.  It is a world to itself just off Joseph Supor Blvd. Someone contact Meistrich, DeNiro, and Weinstein and tell them its not too late to set up a Studio in Harrison.  They were correct that a Movie Studio in Harrison was a great idea.  The location is so much better than Newark's proposed studio location.

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