Tax-credit cap new studio hurdle

Moviemakers seen less likely to go east

By Christine Legere
Boston Globe
February 7, 2010

Since its financing deal fell apart late last year, Plymouth Rock Studios has been focusing on finding and securing the millions of dollars it will need to build its film and television production campus in Plymouth.

But what may make that search even tougher is the recent release of Governor Deval Patrick’s 2011 budget proposal, which includes a $50 million cap on film company tax credits per year for both 2011 and 2012.

Since the state’s expansion of the film credit program under Patrick three years ago, there has been no yearly cap. Film producers have received tax credits for 25 percent of what they spend in Massachusetts.

According to the Massachusetts Production Coalition, that tax incentive has helped to generate more than $1 billion in new economic activity. People connected to the film industry say they fear the proposed cap on credits would affect decisions by West Coast producers to work in Massachusetts – and discourage potential investors from the Plymouth studio project.

Plymouth Rock Studios chief financial officer Joseph DiLorenzo said the governor’s tax credit proposal will also affect long-term commitments to the state by those looking to build sound stages and production facilities.

“It would be very difficult for us to spend hundreds of millions of dollars without the tax credits to draw the moviemakers here,’’ DiLorenzo said.

“Even having discussion about a reduction in the incentive could have an effect.’’ David Kirkpatrick, who heads up Rock Entertainment, the creative affiliate of Plymouth Rock Studios, said the Plymouth Rock team will lobby state lawmakers, who have yet to discuss the proposed film-credit cap, to try to get the Legislature on its side.

“Our position is this was a stimulus package created by the Commonwealth until 2023, in order to bring a vibrant new business to the state,’’ he said.

Kirkpatrick said rumors of the tax cap in Massachusetts are already circulating in Hollywood and the consensus out West is the tax incentives are fundamental to growing a movie and television industry here. He said he was confident legislators will keep the tax-credit program open-ended, rather than approve the cap.

But that optimism was not shared by state Representative Ronald Mariano, a Quincy Democrat who has lobbied hard for a similar film production complex, called SouthField Studios, proposed at the former South Weymouth Naval Air Station.

Most state representatives, in Mariano’s opinion, don’t have a strong appetite for maintaining an open-ended tax credit program for the film industry. “I think 90 percent of them don’t care about it,’’ he said. “It’s not even on their radar.’’

A frustrated Mariano said such a cap would also end the need for infrastructure to support the film and television industry.

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