[OP-ED]: Money Flows Widely From Tax Credits For Filmmaking
Convincing evidence of the profound power of movies is evident every day in Philadelphia.
This evidence is the number of people that flock to the city’s famed Art Museum to run up its broad front steps imitating the main character in the film “Rocky” and/or poise for photographs in front of the statute of the Rocky character located near the Museum’s steps.
Revenue earned at the box office is a usual measure for economic impacts of movies.
The “Rocky” film, for example, generated $225-million at the box office, making it the top money making movie in 1976 – quite a haul for a film that cost $1-million to make.
Unseen by most who see movies are wider economic benefits movie-making produces in areas selected for the production.
Making a movie in Philadelphia means much more than salaries for actors, directors and camera operators. There’s money for an array of items from equipment rentals to restaurants, hotel rooms and even grocery stores where films crews shop while working.
“It’s about jobs…jobs in all capital letters,” noted Philadelphia casting company owner Diane Heery said.
“So many local businesses are affected when movies are made from painters to dry cleaners. A lot of cars and trucks are rented during movie making and that also means gasoline tax revenues for the state,” Heery said. Her company, Heery Loftus, cast characters for “Creed” – a “Rocky” sequel filmed partly in Philadelphia.
Pennsylvania State Senator Vincent Hughes (D-Phila) knows the economic impacts from movie making first-hand from watching the process many times when ‘hanging out’ with his wife, actress Sheryl Lee Ralph.
“When I’ve been on sets with Sheryl, I see make-up people and wardrobe people,” Hughes said. “There are scores of people servicing those actors. Movie making puts a lot of regular people to work.”
Filmmaking has injected nearly $4-billion into the Philadelphia region in the past 25-years, according to Sharon Pinkenson, executive director of the Greater Philadelphia Film Office.
“When filmmakers shoot in Philadelphia, they spend money in Philadelphia,” Pinkenson said. This founder of Philly’s Film Office also highlighted “the priceless cultural impact and the positive spotlight on Philadelphia” related to movie making here.
One of the economic elements vital to attract movie making to a particular location are tax credits filmmakers receive for making their films in a particular state.
Pennsylvania has a tax credit for movie making. But the protracted legislative battle to approve Pa’s state budget puts that critical economic incentive for filming on hold.
Since the inception of Pa’s film tax credit program movie making in the state has generated $528-millon in state and local taxes, according to studies, that also document the creation of over 18,000 jobs. And yes, that employment involves a diverse workforce.
People in all layers of the movie making process understand this equation: no credits = fewer films = less work.
Pennsylvania’s legislature needs to both reauthorize the film tax credit and increase that credit to keep Pa competitive with other states with soaring filmmaking from credits.