Ohio declares tax prod'n credits a success

New York incentives still up in the air as funds diminish

NEW YORK -- While the film and TV industry is hoping for a sign later this month that New York state will continue to provide production incentives, Ohio on Wednesday lauded the early success of tax credits launched last summer to attract productions.

New York's current one-year incentives program, passed last year, is believed to be pretty much out of funds, and a separate New York City program ran out of money last year.

So industry folks are hoping for inclusion of a new long-term state incentives plan in the 2010-11 budget that the state must adopt by April 1.

The state is struggling with budget holes. Supporters of the film incentives point to the financial benefits to the state and its lack of capital outlays ahead of time. Critics say some productions would stay in the Empire State even without financial incentives, and some have made a populist argument against supporting Hollywood.

Gov. David Paterson, who gave his State of the State address Wednesday, is expected to present his executive budget proposal Jan. 19. The State Assembly and Senate will then propose amendments.

New York Production Alliance executive director John Johnston and Steiner Studios boss Doug Steiner, who have pushed for a substantial longer-term incentives program like others in the New York production community, are hoping for a multiyear program.

"The industry is focused on getting the state incentives in place," Steiner told THR. "All the other states, which don't have the same infrastructure that we have in place, have copied what we have done in New York, because we had the most successful tax incentives program ever."

The industry has pointed to an Ernst & Young study that has shown the state has benefited financially via a boost to economic activity, job creation and tax revenue.

Industry folks have pushed for a multiyear commitment to ensure predictability for productions, especially TV shows.

No one wants to predict the possible size of a new state incentives program. Last year, the state made $350 million available for its 30% tax credit program.

The industry had hopes for a bill introduced in the summer that would have extended the state tax credits of 30% through 2015 and add new funds that would cap payouts at $420 million per year. But political chaos in Albany meant the bill, sponsored by Republican Sen. Martin Golden and others, never went anywhere.

New York City previously had a 5% tax credit in place, but the mayor's office last year looked at a reduction in that percentage. A state program is needed before NYC can launch a new incentives measure.

While the future of the N.Y. and NYC incentives is not clear yet, representatives of Ohio on Wednesday lauded the early success of their state's tax credits program.

Ohio Department of Development director Lisa Patt-McDaniel said nearly $7 million is already being made available to four Ohio movie productions, including "Unstoppable" from 20th Century Fox starring Denzel Washington, which shot in the state late in 2009, and three independent films from Cleveland-based Nehst Studios. Ohio has earmarked a total of $30 million in motion picture tax credits for fiscal year 2010-11.

The four movies are expected to employ nearly 3,000 Ohioans and estimated to bring about $25 million in economic activity to the state.

"Ohio is already seeing an economic boost from the production of these films," said Patt-McDaniel, citing job creation and tax and other revenue for local communities and their businesses.

Interest in filming in Ohio has "grown exponentially" since the incentives were signed into law in July, said Jeremy Henthorn, director of the Ohio Film Office. "With more production companies actively preparing film tax credit applications, this year will be a busy one for Ohio vendors and citizens."
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