Dax Shepard’s untitled movie based on the TV series CHiPs, Conjuring 2 and films from major studios including Paramount, Fox and Warner Bros are getting help from the Golden State. More than two weeks after the first application period for feature films ended, the California Film Commission revealed today that 11 movies — seven studio pics and three indies — will be getting a piece of the expanded $330 million-a-year program that Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law last year. Here’s the commission’s list that was just revealed:
“We’re fighting back and winning thanks to our newly expanded tax credit program,” said California Film Commission executive director Amy Lemisch in the announcement. “We were losing projects that were set here at home, and now we’re back to doubling for other locales. This demonstrates that when the playing field is more level, the industry views California as the first and best option.”
Lemisch noted that the indie projects announced today are from production companies that rarely work in California, opting instead to shoot in states where tax credits have been more readily available. That includes Alcon Entertainment, which, has not filmed a project entirely in California in more than a decade. It will film its adaptation Chicken Soup For The Soul here.
As Deadline’s Mike Fleming Jr scooped last fall, Warner Bros set Shepard to write, direct and star in a screen version of CHiPS, the TV series that ran from 1977-83. Now that project is headed for the highway, with Shepard set to play Officer Jon Baker (played in the original by Larry Wilcox), and Michael Pena attached to play Frank “Ponch” Poncherello (the role Erik Estrada originated).
Warner Bros hit the jackpot too today with money for Conjuring 2, the New Line spinoff that minted $318M off a $20M production budget. Its release date was recently pushed into 2016. Other studio pics that made the list today: Paramount’s Action Park and The God Particle, and Fox’s Avon Man and Why Him.
Based on data provided with each application, the 11 approved projects announced today will generate an estimated $533 million in direct in-state spending, including $171 million in wages for below-the-line crew members, according to the commission.
The titles will divvy up a hefty $55.2 million allocated for features this round, and will receive up to 25% in tax credits out of the state production coffers in hopes of having movies made in the home of Hollywood and drawing production from incentive lucrative other states, Canada and the UK.
More than 250 projects applied for the credits before the submission deadline for features late last month. Of particular significance is that this is the first time tentpoles with budgets of more than $75 million are eligible to apply for tax credits. The hope from the executive suites and Sacramento is that handing out tax credits to big movies will result in a trickle down effect of more jobs including hard hit vendors such as VFX companies.
Of the 254 film productions that applied last month for California tax credits, there were 32 for the $48.3 million available for non-independents and 222 for the $6.9 million for independents. The online-only application period ran from July 13-25 – with a digital disruption of a few hours on July 20. The next round of feature applications will be accepted from January 11-24.
In the lead-up to today’s announcement, the major studios such as Warner Bros were pretty much consistent numbers-wise with past years in terms of projects submitted. Past years saw both film and TV projects chosen in a once-a-year allocation lottery that was a hallmark of the grand total $100 million annual program since it was first introduced in 2009. But that has been scrapped — the last such lottery was held on April Fool’s Day — and replaced by a merit-assessment scheme with increased emphasis on job creation as insisted upon by state Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León in his crucial support for the expanded program last year.
“The new film and TV tax credit 2.0 ensures the well-being of one of our signature industries while boosting California’s economy,” said de León to Deadline today. “Because its focus is on job creation and the resulting economic benefits, it is a great investment for taxpayers that is already showing dividends as productions from other states are relocating here.”
The very first application period under the now-non-lottery program was for TV only and ran from May 11-17. It saw 37 projects apply for the $82.8 million available in state tax credits in that category. In the end, 11 projects — including HBO’s Veep and three other relocating series — were selected in early June to receive the incentives. The next TV application period is November 30-December 6 this year.
California’s widely supported tax credits law was passed by the Assembly in late May 2014 and by the state Senate on August 29. Gov. Brown signed the bill in September. “California is on the move, and Hollywood is a very important part of that,” the governor said just before signing the bill. “It’s not only a golden state but home of the silver screen,” he added, promising thousands of new jobs would emerge from the new law. Now with both TV and film projects having gotten the thumbs up incentives-wise, seeing that promise come true is the next hurdle.