Study cites film gains amid tax-break battle

Gloucester Times
February 16, 2010
From Staff and Wire Reports

While most of the nation’s film and television production still takes place in New York and California, Massachusetts ranks high among the fastest-growing locations, according to a new study from the University of Massachusetts Boston.

The film and television industry has also aided local job growth in the construction and transportation sectors and has generated new career paths for Bay State college graduates, the report added.

But how extensively that will continue may rest with the fate of a plan to scale back tax credits being explored by Gov. Deval Patrick.

“Employment in film and television production has increased in Massachusetts during a period when total state employment has been on the decline,” the UMass Boston report found. “There is also evidence that some of this job growth has helped to offset job losses in particularly hard-hit trades like construction and transportation, as workers from these sectors have found work in film and television production.”

The 72-page study, however, comes as Patrick has proposed capping the present $125 million tax incentive program at $50 million as one of several ways to close a $2.7 billion structural deficit in the fiscal 2011 budget. The tax credit program was created in 2005 by the Legislature.

According to data the study uses from the Motion Picture Association of America and others, the state grabbed slightly more than 1 percent of total national spending on motion pictures and television productions in 2007.

“While Massachusetts does not currently capture a large percentage of the national film and television production spending, it seems to be growing more rapidly than other states (some of which have more generous tax programs) and capturing work that might otherwise be taking place elsewhere,” the report said.

Those figures also predated some significant film production work on and around Cape Ann in 2008 and 2009.

In 2008, the hit comedy “The Proposal,” starring Sandra Bullock, Ryan Reynolds and Betty White, filmed extensively in Rockport, and in Gloucester and Manchester.

Mel Gibson’s current “Edge of Darkness” also filmed along Rockport’s Cape Hedge Beach in 2008. And, in 2009, Essex played host for several months to the filming of Adam Sandler’s “Grown Ups,” with Chris Rock and Salma Hayek, netting the town $150,000 for the use of Centennial Grove, and pumping more than $1 million into the Essex economy, according to estimates.

Chris O’Donnell, a film industry union official and founding member of the Massachusetts Production Coalition, cited the UMass Boston report last week in urging Patrick not to cut the tax credit.

“While we empathize with the governor’s need to identify revenue to help fill the budget gap, we are concerned that the proposed $50 million cap on the credit will drive the film and television industry to another state.

“The benefits of the credit — jobs creation and building the industry’s infrastructure — far outweigh its cost,” O’Donnell said.

The study, funded through a “creative economy initiatives” fund at UMass Boston, was primarily authored by Pacey Foster, a management and marketing professor, and David Terkla, an economics professor.

The study employed federal and local economic data, interviews with industry participants, and employment and spending data provided by local unions.

Material from the State House News Service was used in this report by Times staff.

Editorial: Film tax credit boosts state, shouldn’t be subject to cap
Robert DeLeo: Film tax credit plays role in job growth



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