BOSTON GLOBE EDITORIAL
April 21, 2008
KNOWN more for icy winters than hot klieg lights, Massachusetts has nevertheless given a warm welcome to the film industry, especially in the last year. Under a 2007 law that expanded on an existing set of tax incentives, producers who spend more than half their budgets in Massachusetts are eligible for a tax credit worth 25 percent of what they spend in the state. And they can sell the credits to a third party or obtain a cash refund from the state.
Now some industry boosters are proposing a new incentive. Representative Ronald Mariano of Quincy has filed a bill adding a 20 percent tax credit for the establishment of permanent film-industry infrastructure, such as studios and film labs.
But with the latest set of film incentives less than a year old, it’s too early to know whether studios and other facilities would arise without a new tax break. Film crews are coming to Massachusetts because of the incentive package. Last year 52 productions used one or more of its provisions, according to the state Department of Revenue – up from 20 the year before. That activity has prompted investors to consider building studios in the state.
One beneficiary of Mariano’s bill would be International Studio Group, which wants to build a $300 million studio in South Weymouth – provided the new tax credit becomes law. Allan Kassirer, a principal of the firm, describes the credit as a “no-lose situation” for Massachusetts. The state isn’t fronting any money, he argues, and because the credit comes out of a project’s future tax payments, the state would only be forgoing revenue if the studio succeeds in earning money.
Yet at least one other group of investors is exploring prospects for a studio in the state, with or without the new credit. It’s too soon to know whether private investors will build production and post-production facilities without a costly new tax incentive. At the least, it’s too early to say that they won’t.