Wisconsin after 'third coast' title

Institutes 25% tax credit, theater booking incentives

Is a filmmaking "third coast" one step closer to happening?

On Jan. 1, Wisconsin's new 25% tax credits for the film, television and video game industries kicked in, putting the state on competitive footing with many other leading film-incentive states.

But the state is taking its push to attract films to the next level by offering a guarantee that any movie shot in Wisconsin will receive theatrical exhibition.

Wisconsin-based Marcus Theatres has made an arrangement with Film Wisconsin, the state's film office, to offer its almost 600 screens in six Midwestern states to filmmakers as a way to help build a film economy in the state.

"Marcus Theatres will provide the foundation bookings that may lead to multiple playdates from other theater circuits in major markets across the Midwest and U.S.," Marcus president Bruce Olson wrote in a letter to Film Wisconsin. "The number and playdates will be determined by the final quality and appeal of the production."

Marcus retains the right to refuse to screen a film, but Olson said it "will make all reasonable efforts to accommodate the filmmakers' request for bookings" on films receiving a G, PG, PG-13 or R rating.

Film Wisconsin executive director Scott Robbe said the biggest impact of the commitment will be felt by independent filmmakers.

"The hardest thing for an indie filmmaker is to go to an investor and say, 'We have a guarantee to be in a theater,' " Robbe said. "With this deal, it makes investors more likely to give you money. It immediately increases the value of a project."

Wisconsin hopes the double combo of incentives and theater run, along with working with the nearby Chicago and Illinois film offices, will help establish an alternative to the Los Angeles and New York film scenes.

The incentives already are having their desired effect. Michael Mann, planning a Chicago shoot for his Depression-era Johnny Depp gangster film "Public Enemies," has been scouting the Milwaukee area for 1930s period banks, prisons and street scenes.

"The synergy we're creating is on its way to making the idea of an affordable film-friendly third coast a reality," Robbe said.