Interesting how, after the opening of Shutter Island, there’s another debate inside Massachusetts over those hefty film tax credits in effect since 2005 and which have a sunset date of January 2023. Paramount claims to have saved $25 million on the $100M budget of Marty Scorsese’s psychological thriller by shooting over 24 months in Massachusetts. But Governor Deval Patrick’ recent budget proposal includes a $50 million cap on the film tax credit for the next 2 years –- a cut of $75 million. Which means it could now be on a first-come, first-served basis: so if the first in line eat up all the money, then there’s nothing left for the rest of the filmmakers. This comes just when a new 18-month study out of the University of Massachusetts at Boston is released focusing on the economic effects of the film tax credit and showing that statewide companies benefit from the film tax incentives. On the other hand, a Department of Revenue report estimated the film tax break delivered only 15 cents in revenues for each dollar the state gave away to moviemakers in 2008 and Massachusetts lost $95.5 million on it that year and on the hook for another $250 million over the next 2 years. The DOR estimates the film credit’s cost to taxpayers at $125 million for 2011. But Chris Brigham, the executive producer of Shutter Island, told the local press: “I think selfishly what’s most important to filmmakers and to the financiers is that the rebate itself is secure. I know some states have tax caps and you basically form a queue. And if you can get in under the cap it’s great.” Something like 27 states now offer refundable film tax credits. One of the arguments being made against the credits is that filmmaking will never be a significant sector “under any scenario or imagination in Massachusetts, according to a spokesman for the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation.
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