Wednesday, February 06, 2013

The Evergreen Movie Tax Credits Debate Now Moves To Stages



Tax credits for film production are a familiar enough concept for those who follow Massachusetts political and cultural news.

As I posted last year, the concept of tax credits for large, Broadway touring or try-out shows, hit the mainstream in places like Toronto and Chicago.

Now, Geoff Edgers, writing in the Boston Globe, reports on how legislators in the Bay State will be considering a similar tax credit proposal:

 The credit would grant up to $3 million to a production that plays in Massachusetts before opening in New York or to a touring show that starts here, reimbursing up to 35 percent of its state labor costs. Advo­cates of the proposal say the credits would create hundreds of jobs and drive millions of dollars of business into Massachusetts. 

Of course, there are arguments for and against this new idea. Jeff Jacoby, a columnist for the Globe, fired off with both barrels:

 Local theater honchos are warning, of course, that unless the Legislature showers them with a lucrative new subsidy, Massachusetts can kiss big stage productions goodbye. 
“We need this credit,” the Citi Center’s Josiah Spaulding Jr. told the Globe. “Illinois has one. Louisiana has one. And if we can’t get one, we won’t be able to attract pre-Broadway shows again.”Uh-huh. That is what rent-seeking special pleaders — sports team owners, mutual-fund companies, video-game makers, solar-energy firms, filmmakers — always claim. And almost invariably the subsidies and benefits and tax breaks they clamor for turn out in the end to be what the critics predicted: ill-advised corporate welfare that costs far more than it generates. (See under: 38 Studios. Or Boston Convention & Exhibition Center. Or Evergreen Solar. Or Nortel Networks.)

However, the most interesting cautionary note, to my mind, was voiced in the Edger's story by long-time Broadway producer Tom Viertel:

 “The problem is that in order to do a good job with a pre-Broadway show, you have to be able to keep it in front of an audience for close to a month while you work on it,” Viertel said. “The daunting aspect, from a producer’s point of view, is, ‘Can Boston really provide a month’s worth of audiences?’ Even with the tax credits, Boston may be a little limited as to what it can attract.”
(Note to Mirror readers.  The Globe has opted for a pretty restrictive paywall, so I apologize if the links don't work for you.  More on this in an upcoming post.)

1 comment:

Thomas Garvey said...

Isn't a tax break for a Broadway tryout what the A.R.T. and Harvard are already doing? Perhaps just giving open commercial producers a tax break as well would level the playing field, and perhaps even clarify the proper parameters of the nonprofit mission.