If a movie or television production is in need of a prison, there is an available option: Butler Correctional Facility in Wayne County.
The former state prison, which closed in 2014, has been quietly listed as a possible filming location by Empire State Development. A gallery published by the New York State Governor's Office of Motion Picture and Television Development on the photo hosting website SmugMug features a "locations library" of several sites across New York.
Butler is one of the potential filming locations in the Finger Lakes region listed under the heading "jails/prisons." The other site is the former Willard Asylum for the Chronic Insane, a former state hospital in Seneca County.
In response to emailed questions from The Citizen, Empire State Development said the shuttered prison was listed as a filming location about two years ago. However, the agency added there hasn't been any interest from film or television companies to use the facility.
"The mission of Empire State Development is to create jobs and part of that mission involves innovative ways to adapt and reuse older buildings for new projects," the agency said in a prepared statement. "Prisons are ideally suited for the television and movie industry as filming locations and can offer the change to make an economic impact by creating jobs and stimulating local businesses before the prisons are sold and redeveloped."
Local officials weren't aware of the state's attempt to promote the site as a filming location for movie and television productions.
Brian Pincelli, CEO and executive director of the Wayne County Economic Development and Planning Department, said he didn't know the state listed Butler as a possible filming location. When contacted by The Citizen Wednesday, he said it was "news to him."
"I'm curious," Pincelli said. "It sounds like a neat idea."
The revelation highlights the challenges in finding a new use for Butler Correctional Facility, one of four prisons closed by the state in 2014.
In 2018, Empire State Development issued a request for proposals to seek ideas for reusing the vacant property. Agency officials told The Citizen that the request "did not generate sufficient proposals."
With the request for proposals not resulting in any serious ideas, the state plans to auction the prison. The auction will be held later this year.
There is precedent for using a shuttered prison to host movie and television productions.
The former Arthur Kill Correctional Facility in New York City, one of seven prisons closed by the state in 2011, was purchased by Broadway Stages — a Brooklyn-based production company.
Broadway Stages filmed the 2018 movie "Ocean's 8" starring Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett and Anne Hathaway at the shuttered Staten Island prison. The facility was also used to film scenes for the hit Netflix series "Orange Is the New Black."
The state hopes to replicate that success with other prisons that closed over the last several years.
Another prison that closed in 2014, Chateaugay Correctional Facility in the North Country, is listed in the state's filming locations library on SmugMug. Chateaugay, like Butler, didn't garner a lot of interest in the request for proposals phase and the state attempted to sell it at auction.
There was a winning bidder, but that was rejected by the state. The state held a second auction, this time through a sealed-bid process. A Brooklyn-based company was the winning bidder, but it's unknown what the company's plans are for reusing the site.
Online producer Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.
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