Republic Airport in East Farmingdale is one of the busiest general aviation airports in the state, and it's not just charter flights and flight school planes keeping the two runways and multiple taxiways active.
Over the past decade, Republic has become a popular location for TV and film crews, with about a dozen shoots there every year.
John Lauth, assistant airport manager, said word of mouth has spread about the Republic's accessibility and its ability to accommodate film crews. He said interest increased as more location scouts became more aware of the state Department of Transportation-run airport.
“It’s another aspect to an airport that some people don’t realize happens,” he said. “It makes for an exciting location. An airport is like a mini city in a town somewhere.”
The airport pulls in about $100,000 annually from filming fees, attracting more TV shows than movies. By comparison, Long Island MacArthur Airport — a public airport 25 times the size — earns about $500,000 annually from filming; Francis S. Gabreski Airport in Westhampton Beach hasn't hosted any shoots; and Brookhaven Calabro Airport has had one movie filmed there, in 2017, according to officials at each airport.
The many scenes filmed at Republic have been for TV shows such as “Madam Secretary” and “Billions” and for movies such as "8mm," starring Nicholas Cage, and "Two Weeks Notice," starring Sandra Bullock.
Requests for access to more sensitive areas of the airport, like a runway or taxiway, must be run by the Federal Aviation Administration, Lauth said, while other requests are for shooting in the main terminal, a hangar or a ramp.
He said a wooded area on airport grounds has also been a draw.
“Boardwalk Empire” was filmed there three or four times, recreating the New Jersey pine barrens for the show, said Lauth, who has worked at Republic for 20 years.
“We had a niche that they like to use a certain section of the airport,” he said.
Airport officials let local policing authorities know in advance if filming will include anything that may raise an eyebrow, like pyrotechnics.
The revenue has been helpful to the airport, Lauth said. “We utilize that and reinvest revenues to help modernize the airport.”
The relationship is mutually beneficial, so airport officials do whatever they can to accommodate crews.
“They don’t give you much lead time as to when they want to come and shoot,” Lauth said.
Diana Cherryholmes, chairwoman of the Suffolk County Film Commission, said she regularly gets calls from scouts and she refers them to the airport, which often means filming at more than one Long Island location.
“Certainly, they like to bundle things, because it’s just cost-effective,” she said.
Debra Markowitz, her counterpart in the Nassau County Film Commission, said crews find Republic one of the easier airports at which to film and they appreciate the scenery.
“Anything that’s unique that’s hard to get that’s like an airport, that’s going to be a draw,” she said.
Kyle Strober, executive director of Association for a Better Long Island, appreciates the filming from an economic standpoint, noting the money spent on catering services for the shoot, dining at local restaurants, and renting hotel rooms for crew and actors benefits local businesses.
He said the different backdrops -- the wooded area, the runways and planes, the hangars and terminal -- give the film industry many options.
“It’s a screenwriter’s dream for putting an aviation scene in a movie,” Strober said.
Size of airport: 52 acres
Average Aircraft Operations: 558 per day
Approximate shoots annually: 12 to 15
Approximate annual revenue from filming: $100,000
Other notable airport shoots:
"The Colbert Report"
"John Wick" starring Keanu Reeves