Federal production credit sought

At MPAA event, execs pitch for tax breaks on top of states' programs

WASHINGTON -- Several industry representatives on Tuesday called for federal production incentives to add to programs in most U.S. states.

Speaking at a panel at the MPAA's second biennial "The Business of Show Business" symposium, "Angels & Demons" executive producer Todd Hallowell said he would like to see a "national refundable tax credit on the scale of Canada or Australia."

A federal incentives program "would be of great value" as a supplement to states' efforts, said Richard Moskal, director of the Chicago Film Office.

Sharon Pinkenson, executive director of the Greater Philadelphia Film Office, noted that just about every country has a film commission these days. "It's about time (for federal incentives)," she said. "The U.S. seems to be the only country that doesn't represent this industry."

Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., also said the federal government could take a role in retaining productions on U.S. soil. But instead of tax credits, he suggested incentives "on the jobs side" to avoid job migration to such countries as Canada, Ireland and New Zealand.

The recession and piracy also were key themes at the gathering, which was designed to show Hollywood's contributions to U.S. culture and economy.

MPAA chairman and CEO Dan Glickman kicked off the event by pitching the film and TV business as a key economic growth engine. "We are part of the full solution to putting this country back on track," he said.

Panelists agreed that states' tax credits are key for attracting productions in the economic downturn.

Michael Lewis, CEO of RealD, also highlighted the economy, saying 3-D films allow for higher ticket prices, for which the industry must be thankful. He also said boxoffice results for 3-D movie releases using his firm's technology have grossed three to four times the 2-D take.

Meanwhile, Hollywood power players were out in full force for a luncheon, which featured remarks from Glickman, Dwayne Johnson and Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.

Among those in attendance were director John Landis, Walt Disney Studios chairman Dick Cook, Paramount chairman and CEO Brad Grey, Warner Bros. Entertainment chairman and CEO Barry Meyer, Universal Studios president and COO Ron Meyer, Universal Pictures vice chairman Rick Finkelstein, Sony Pictures chairman and CEO Michael Lynton and Fox Filmed Entertainment chairman Jim Gianopulos.