State of incentives: Massachusetts

IPA president Lars Ullberg calls it “the incentives arms race,” and Hollywood Deadline Hollywood Daily writer Nikki Finke calls it “a cutthroat biz these days.”

Wisconsin has put a cap on film breaks, Michigan lawmakers are growing ever more uneasy about the 42% rebates on everything and Massachusetts lost big bucks on its highly touted, generous film breaks.

Massachusetts lost $95.5 million last year, and is on the hook for another $250 million over the next two years, because of film tax breaks, Finke reported July 7.

The Bay State also has to make good on up to $130 million in tax credits in the coming fiscal year, and $117 million in the next, at a time when the state is facing a revenue free fall, reports Nikki Finke’s Deadline Hollywood Daily.

That’s according to what the Boston Herald calls an “astonishing” report quietly released on the Bay State’s Dept. of Revenue web site just before the July 4 weekend.

The film tax break program has delivered only 15 cents in revenues for each dollar the state gave away to moviemakers.

And of the $289 million in wages paid on the productions last year, only 18% went to local workers. Presently, Massachusetts is building a proposed $500 million studio in Plymouth.

But some lawmakers want to put a $2 million cap on how much a movie star’s salary can be used toward the credit. The DOR study is the most comprehensive look at the local moviemaking since lawmakers expanded tax incentives for films in 2007.

There are accusations, however, that the Bay State DOR report was so gloomy because it was authored by ex-New Yorker film commission folks, who used to compete with the Massachusetts locales. This is a really cutthroat biz these days.