N.Y. boosts production incentives

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NEW YORK -- New York State will increase its 10% below-the-line tax credit for film and TV productions to 30%, upping the program to $575 million, speeding the rebate waiting period from two years to one and extending the deal to 2013, with an ultimate $110 million cap.

The Democratic Assembly managed to bargain down the Republican Senate's proposed above-the-line credits, no cap and no end date as legislators passed a state budget Wednesday.

The Senate had proposed an overall 15% below- and above-the-line credit, which would have included rebates for top actors, directors and screenwriters in budgets.

"No one wanted a newspaper headline about a (proposed) $8 (per car) toll to drive into Manhattan on the same page saying the state was giving money to Steven Spielberg," one production studio executive involved in the dealings said.

The caps are increasing from $60 million annually to $65 million in 2009, $75 million in 2010, $90 million in 2011 and 2012, and $110 million in 2013. It's a seeming victory for the Assembly given the Senate's private negotiating goal of $150 million by 2013, and the end date will give the Assembly more control to return and reassess the program.

The addition of the existing 5% rebate for New York productions from the city's budget makes it closer to other states' programs. "I don't think New York has to be cheaper than Connecticut and Massachusetts, just competitive," Kaufman Astoria Studios president Hal Rosenbluth said. "Producers bring crews there from New York, which reduced the benefit of going, and they don't have as good an infrastructure as we do."

The rebate comes closer to Connecticut's 30% above- and below-the-line credit and similar to recent ones from several states, including the 40% below-the-line credit in Michigan.

Silvercup Studios CEO Alan Suna already has seen an impact. "Today I got a call to produce a drama series not even based in New York and another for a show that was slated to go overseas," he said.

The increased production might affect the financial equation for New York City, where Steiner, Kaufman, Silvercup and NBC Universal are based along with many big-budget, big-location shoots. It already is the only city in the U.S. to offer a tax rebate, but it's possible that its $30 million annual cap could be run through quickly with the increased business from the state production and make a big dent in the city's budget. Their program runs through 2011.

NYC Mayor's Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting commissioner Katherine Oliver was upbeat. "The expansion of the state's credit combined with the city's means more employment opportunities for the more than 100,000 local New Yorkers who work in the entertainment industry here in the city," she said.
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