Mass. loses big bucks on film tax breaks

A film being shot on location.

TEXT OF STORY

Kai Ryssdal: The monster success of the new "Transformers" movie aside, the summer hasn't been a blockbuster in terms of overall ticket sales. Hollywood isn't the only party that wants a slice of a movie's success. States offer huge tax incentives to film companies hoping the productions will bring money into the local economy. But a report from the state of Massachusetts shows that it doesn't always work out that way. Marketplace's Rico Gagliano reports.


RICO GAGLIANO: Massachusetts has been buzzing about a recent report from their Department of Revenue. The report says the state didn't actually earn money from the film productions that shot there last year. In fact, thanks to tax credits which Massachusetts gives to movie productions, it lost quite a bit. Steve D'Amico is a state representative.

STEVE D'AMICO: Report basically says that our net loss was $95.5 million.

This in the midst of a budget crisis. And D'Amico says Massachusetts hasn't gained $95.5 million bucks worth of local film industry jobs. He thinks the 43 states which offer tax credits to filmmakers should get out of the movie-wooing business.

D'AMICO: This is a massive waste of money. I mean, the problem is that this is a 43-state competition. There are 43 states, they go from state to state peddling this stuff, bidding states off against each other. So this is a race to the bottom we simply can't win.

Another state in that competition? California, where a nonprofit called Film L.A. wants its state government to offer more credits and incentives to film productions. Paul Audley's the president. He says despite the report Massachusetts has reaped some benefits from film production.

PAUL AUDLEY: Seventy-seven million [dollars] in wages were paid to Massachusetts people, and well over that -- $343 million dollars -- in GDP increases in Massachusetts over the same period.

Even so, Massachusetts representative D'Amico will offer a bill later this year to roll back the tax credits. Some senators in Pennsylvania hope to do the same thing with their state's credits, too.

In Los Angeles, I'm Rico Gagliano for Marketplace.

About the author

Rico Gagliano is the host of Dinner Party Download.

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