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NEW MEXICO: A Look Back at The Avengers' Shooting in Albuquerque

The film commission of Albuquerque, New Mexico has issued a press release that looks back at the production of Joss Whedon's The Avengers there, noting how the city moved up to meet the challenges of the film's needs.
Albuquerque, New Mexico played a big role in the making of Marvel Studios’ box office smash The Avengers. Over 75% of the film, including many of the jaw-dropping scenes that were shot in front of the green screen, took place at the state-of-the-art Albuquerque Studios; while an additional 5% of the movie was shot at nearby locations around the city. That’s pretty extraordinary for an action-packed film of this magnitude to be mostly shot in one location. So, how did they do it?

Albuquerque Studios boasts eight enormous sound stages, some of the biggest in the world, and The Avengers used six of them. They built the elaborate Helicarrier, or the flying aircraft, stretching across two stages that are nearly as big as a football field, with an intricate control station to boot. It’s a focal point in the movie, and took nearly five months to build. According to Dana Arnold, CEO of Pacifica Ventures – the parent company who designed, built and operates Albuquerque Studios, “There is no other purpose-built stage on Earth where the massive sets created by the Marvel team could have been built.”

Another set featured in the movie is Tony Stark's, or Iron Man’s, high-rise apartment. The set stood more than three stories tall, yet there was still plenty of room overhead for lights and rigging in the massive ABQ soundstages.

“We are seeing a trend in filmmaking,” says ABQ VP Ruth Caruso, “Audiences are demanding bigger, more spectacular visuals from tentpole studio films which are achieved through spectacular set designs and stunts that in turn need huge sound stages and integrated facilities like ABQ.”

In total, about ten different sets were built at Albuquerque Studios, keeping the cast and crew busy for ten months from November 2010 to August 2011. It took hundreds of local vendors, from lumber mills to craft services, to build one of the most impressive sets ever seen on the big screen.

According to Executive Producer Patricia Whitcher, “We had a great experience in New Mexico shooting on ‘Thor’ (in 2010), and Albuquerque Studios is a world-class facility that was brand-new and could accommodate all of the very large builds we needed to do as well as production support all in one self-contained facility.”

She went on to tell the Albuquerque Journal, “With so many moving parts in a production like this, it really benefited everyone to have the ability to set up shop and shoot in one location for three months.”

Albuquerque became home base for the film and the A-list actors from April to August last year. Director Josh Whedon also told the Albuquerque Journal that the cast grew tight while working in Albuquerque, because they didn’t have many ties to New Mexico. “We were forced to go out and see the city together,” he said. “We’d go out to eat and then go dancing at the clubs. Albuquerque is a charming place that has a lot to offer.”

In addition to the integrated services and facilities of ABQ Studios, The Avengers production benefitted from the services of ABQ’s unique “Studio Concierge” service, which provides productions with local knowledge and the lowest rates possible on everything from travel, accommodations, babysitting, and dry cleaning to restaurant reservations, spa appointments, and more, at no cost to the production. In 2011, the ABQ Studio Concierge booked over 35,000 hotel room nights for The Avengers and other productions based at the studio.

According to the New Mexico Film Office, about 500 locals worked on The Avengers movie. But the impact was felt more widely than that. “They spent millions of dollars on lumber and steel, food and drink, hotel rooms – the list goes on and on. They hired hundreds of local workers at great wages, and they were so impressed that when they were done they took 200 of them to Cleveland for a month to shoot the street scenes that integrated with the green screen work done at ABQ,” adds Caruso. “That’s how good our crews are in New Mexico after nearly 10 years of one of the top incentive programs in the country."

Indeed, The Avengers production was a product of the state’s long development of its local film industry. New Mexico offers a straightforward 25% film production rebate with full assistance by the State Film Office and Taxation & Revenue throughout the entire process. The film incentives allow talented in-state crew, big production facilities, and hundreds of local vendors to flourish and grow.

This is due in no small measure to the outstanding support of past and current governors and their film office teams. “Governor Martinez's office had a significant role in making Marvel comfortable in coming to New Mexico and made absolutely sure that every commitment made to the production was met on every level,” says Pacifica Ventures CEO, Dana Arnold. “With one of the best incentive programs in the United States, and the unequaled support of the administration, it is no wonder that The Avengers was made in New Mexico, and there is no doubt that this is just the beginning.”

Pacifica Ventures developed, built and operates the world-class, technologically-advanced Albuquerque Studios (ABQ), which opened in Spring 2007 and was expanded in 2008.ABQ features eight (8) massive soundstages, including four (4) 24,000 sq. ft. stages separated by operable partition walls that open up to a massive 48,000 sq. ft. shooting space. (Close the big wall, and you can fire off a gunshot, or a nailgun, on one stage without disturbing filming on the other.) In addition to The Avengers, the studio has hosted a number of major Hollywood productions, including the cutting-edge, 100% green-screen production of The Spirit, sci-fi blockbuster Terminator: Salvation, Denzel Washington thriller The Book of Eli, Due Date, Fright Night 3D, Gamer, Let Me In, and four seasons of multiple Emmy-award winning AMC drama series Breaking Bad. Currently in production are Disney’s The Lone Ranger (starring Johnny Depp) and the fifth season of Breaking Bad.

It’s no secret. Albuquerque Studios, the city of Albuquerque, and the State of New Mexico have what it takes to accommodate and make the world’s biggest movies.
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