Let's Roll: City Renews Film Tax Credit

Popular incentive program gets a sequel

The pot of money used to lure film and television projects to the city is almost gone, but Mayor Michael Bloomberg is about to shoot a sequel.

The city is introducing legislation in Albany this week to extend the popular tax incentive program that began in 2005 to give a boost to an industry that pumps $5 billion a year into the local economy, officials said today.

The initial 5 percent tax credit — on top of a state credit — was wildly successful in bringing millions of dollars worth of film and television business to the city, including the ABC comedy "Ugly Betty" and Jennifer Aniston's upcoming movie, "The Baster."

Many of those productions likely would have shot in Los Angeles or fled to other cities with tax incentive programs, faking New York City scenes on nondescript urban streets.

The city's original tax incentive — $50 million for four years — was so attractive that the money dried up in about a year and had to be renewed in 2006.

Meanwhile, the state has also had to refill its fund and raised its 10 percent credit to 30 percent last year. The state just put another $350 million into its program last month.

The Bloomberg administration is proposing to extend the city's program with some changes that will make the money last longer and work better for the industry, according to Katherine Oliver, commissioner of the Mayor's Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting.

"This an industry that chases tax incentive programs, and many other states across the country have adopted competing incentive programs," Oliver said. "We feel to be competitive and keep the productions coming to New York, we need to revise and extend the program."

Film and television productions are eligible for the credit if they do 75 percent of their work in the city and shoot for at least one day at a top production facility in it.

Under the new legislation, the city is proposing to offer a 4 percent credit, down from its original 5 percent. The state is still determining whether to renew its credit.

The city would provide $24 million per year through 2011 and would set a $250,000 cap for each film or episode of a TV series. Previously, there was no cap for the amount of money a production could get from the city.

Also, there is a limit to how long television shows can take advantage of the credit. A show can get the full 4 percent credit for three years, but in its fourth year that would go down to 3 percent, and down to 2 percent the following year.

The goal, Oliver said, is to tailor the credit to be more of an incentive to draw new productions to the city rather than a repeat source of funding for existing productions.

"When you just have a pool of money and no specifics about how to access that money, the pot runs out fairly quickly, and we've seen that happen several times," she said. "It's about bringing new business and retaining that business." 

"Bride Wars", "Cloverfield" and "Sex and the City: The Movie" are among the many recent movies shot in New York City. And Angelina Jolie's "Salt" just finished up shooting in New York City. It's due out next year.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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