When we think about green technology, things like cars and power plants come to mind before entertainment. But Broadway Stages is the first film and TV production company to build solar-powered stages. Not only is CEO Gina Argento a pioneer in a male-dominated field, she’s also on the forefront of green infrastructure and renewable energy in the world of soundstages. Gina Argento talked to Inhabitat about their innovations.
Inhabitat: How did you get into the business of operating soundstages?
Argento: In 1983, my brother Tony Argento purchased a dilapidated movie theater on Broadway Street in Astoria, Queens and turned it into a soundstage. Numerous commercials and music videos were filmed at this namesake location, including legendary musical artists such as Aretha Franklin, Beyoncé, Jay-Z, Will Smith and others.
The company expanded to Brooklyn where additional soundstages were built in Greenpoint, broadening from music videos to television and film production. I joined Broadway Stages after earning a master’s degree from St. John’s University. Today, our family-owned business boasts over 1.5 million square feet of integrated space with 60 soundstages, unique locations, support space, equipment services and parking throughout Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island.
I serve as the president and CEO, overseeing the day-to-day operations and together with Tony, provide strategic business direction and client relations. Our stages have been home to hit films and shows such as “BlackKKlansman,” “Halston,” “Blue Bloods,” “The Good Fight,” “Billions,” “Godfather of Harlem,” “New Amsterdam” and “Harlem,” to name a few.
Inhabitat: When and how did you decide to go solar?
Argento: Broadway Stages’ commitment to the community – economically, socially and environmentally – dates back to the founding of Broadway Stages almost 40 years ago and is at the core of our business philosophy. We have always wanted to make a difference and getting into renewable energy was something that would help offset our environmental footprint.
Renewable energy and environmentally sustainable structures can be seen across the rooftops of our facilities in Brooklyn. As an early adopter and supporter of green roofs, Broadway has invested in more than 100,000 square feet of green infrastructure, including 50,000 square feet of solar arrays.
Our solar energy project was constructed in 2010. We teamed with Greenpoint Energy Partners and Brooklyn-based Solar Energy Systems to install and maintain 50,000 square feet of solar electric facilities on five of our soundstage buildings throughout Brooklyn. With a capacity of 1.6 MW, this project represents one of the largest combined solar arrays deployed on a private facility in New York, and the largest in the film and TV studio production industry. The solar panels have helped to offset approximately one third of our annual electricity consumption, improve air quality, increase reliability of the power grid during peak demand and create jobs.
Inhabitat: How many solar-powered soundstages do you have so far?
Argento: Currently, we have 50,000 square feet of solar electric facilities on five of our soundstage buildings throughout Greenpoint in Brooklyn. We are looking into the possibility of expanding our use of renewable energy sources solar at our other campus locations.
Inhabitat: Tell us a bit about your green rooftop in Brooklyn.
Argento: We have more than 59,000 square feet of green rooftop gardens across our facilities in Brooklyn. Our first green rooftop, Eagle Street Rooftop Farm, was created in 2008. New York City’s first-ever fully operational organic rooftop farm spans 6,000 square feet and helps to advance the health of the environment while also educating citizens about the value of green initiatives.
In 2016, Broadway Stages collaborated with Alive Structures and New York City Audubon to create a 23,000 plus square foot green roof. Located atop one of our soundstages in Brooklyn, we donated the space and along with initial funding from the Greenpoint Community Environmental Fund, continue to provide financial support for the infrastructure and garden maintenance.
Today, Kingsland Wildflowers at Broadway Stages is home to native grasses and wildflowers that provide a bird and bee-friendly meadow and serves to divert runoff rainwater. The rooftop is also host to educational programs managed by the Newtown Creek Alliance.
In 2019, Broadway Stages was awarded a $1.5 million grant by the New York State Environmental Facilities Corporation’s Green Innovation Grant Program for the installation of a 1.4-acre green roof. The project, being designed, installed and managed by Alive Structures atop our film production studios in Brooklyn, is known as Broadway Stages Green Corridor. With 30,000 square feet of green roof gardens completed, the addition of an anticipated 31,000 square feet of green rooftop infrastructure will help to advance ecosystem services that are critical to habitat and community.
Inhabitat: How much power does the average soundstage need?
Argento: As one might expect, it takes a good deal of energy to bring a production to life. A stage set requires, lights, cameras, monitors, microphones and other equipment. The 50,000 square feet of solar panels atop our studios in Brooklyn have helped to offset approximately one third of our annual electricity consumption. We continue to look into expansion of our green infrastructure, including renewable energy options.
Inhabitat: Could you tell us a little about the film industry’s impact on the environment?
Argento: Like most industries, film and TV uses natural resources and energy sources daily, which is why Broadway Stages is committed to advancing renewable energy and green technologies to help offset those impacts. As a leader in the industry, we are proud to be an early adopter and advocate for green technology, from solar arrays to rooftop gardens. Everything we can do to protect our environment makes a difference.
Inhabitat: What else should readers know about your sustainability efforts at Broadway Stages?
Argento: At Broadway Stages, we believe our communities are the legacy we leave behind and that it’s incumbent upon us to ensure they continue to thrive well into the future – economically, socially and environmentally. To that end, in addition to our own sustainability efforts, we actively partner with local organizations to support initiatives that benefit our community. These partnerships, and the programs they provide, help bring equity, inclusion and well-being to our city in various ways, including economic growth, environmental sustainability and appreciation for the arts.
For example, at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Broadway Stages partnered with The Campaign Against Hunger (TCAH), offering the use of our facility in Canarsie, Brooklyn as a food distribution facility allowing them to help feed those in need. Broadway Stages is now on the board of TCAH and an advocate for the development of their urban farms that help expand food access for communities facing food insecurity. Steadfast values based on decades of experience, and a heritage steeped in principled tradition and community focus, are at the core of Broadway Stages’ business philosophy and the catalyst to make a lasting, positive local impact.
Images via Broadway Stages