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Independence Day: Resurgence filmed in adapted New Mexico studios

Independence Day: ResurgenceAlien invasion sequel Independence Day: Resurgence was shot in several adapted studio spaces in New Mexico, using the state’s generous filming incentive support.

Set 20 years after the first Independence Day – which was released in 1996 – the sequel tells the story of a new, bigger alien invasion and humanity’s efforts to defeat it with the help of retrieved extraterrestrial technology.

Back in the mid-90s the first movie based production at an aerospace facility in California and filmed location work across the US. Twenty years later big-budget Hollywood productions are largely driven by the availability of regional filming incentives and so the producers of Independence Day: Resurgence filmed largely in New Mexico. 

The state offers a 25% movie tax credit (rising to 30% for TV), which has helped turn the city of Albuquerque into a south-west production hub and the top US location for desert settings.

While location filming did take place in rural New Mexico and further north on the Utah/Nevada border, most of the shoot was studio-based. Albuquerque Studios was a major venue as it offers nine sound stages, several of which can be combined to create spaces of up to 48,000 sq ft. The facility has also hosted the Young Adult drama sequel Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials, drug cartel thriller Sicario and Disney’s The Lone Ranger.       

The Independence Day: Resurgence production team also ended up building sets in a nearby industrial space owned by the Navajo Native American tribe. 

Albuquerque’s Tingley Coliseum (pictured below) was also used as an adapted space. Originally built as an indoor auditorium for rodeo riding and horse shows, Tingley is now an 11,500-capacity multi-purpose arena that’s also home to an indoor American football team. The Independence Day crew wrapped a green screen around the interior for visual effects purposes and at one point the space was even flooded for specific scenes in the film.

Tingley Coliseum in New Mexico

Changes were made to the physical infrastructure of Tingley to make it suitable for filming. Biggest among these was boosting electricity capacity, increasing heating and ventilation, hanging a lighting grid, and putting in both waterproofing and soundproofing.

“With consistent rebates in New Mexico, many features and television shows are converting warehouses and other spaces into temporary or even permanent studio space,” says Rebecca Puck Stair, the film’s location manager, in comments to KFTV. “Like all our locations, the spaces were returned to equal or better condition after filming.”

Albuquerque Studios in New Mexico

Many of the world’s top production hubs are under pressure to offer more purpose-built studio facilities like Albuquerque Studios (pictured above). The demand for filmed content is increasing – especially with the growth of online streaming platforms like Netflix – but finding somewhere to put them all is a challenge as purpose-built studios generally take a year or more to build. 

Adapted spaces are an essential and prolific interim solution in global production hubs, with studio shortages creating high-profile challenges in places like Vancouver and Scotland, where the adapted Wardpark Studios near Glasgow is the country's only major filming facility. In London retrofitted facilities are considered a viable long-term measure to support the production industry. Warehouses can in some cases become full studios when they attract investment from different productions over a number of years, or perhaps are bought outright by a production company.

California remains New Mexico’s principal competitor and last year was the most popular location for US productions in terms of sheer numbers. But California’s filming tax credit prioritises TV shoots and very few big-budget productions film on the west coast. So long as this remains the case, New Mexico will remain the more popular location for studio event movies.

For more on filming in New Mexico see our production guide.

Tingley Coliseum image: Rebecca Puck Stair.