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Tax rebate drives Oz pic boom

Break brings big budget pix

SYDNEY — The boom in U.S. and other offshore-originated production Down Under is encouraging the country’s two major facilities, the Warner Roadshow Movie World Studios in Queensland and Fox Studios Australia, to build additional soundstages.

Execs whose mission is to lure producers to these shores credit the surge to the 12.5% tax rebate for qualifying Australian expenditure in big-budget film and TV productions introduced last September.

The government acted quickly to offer that concession after a campaign led by Warner Bros. and 20th Century Fox, which had threatened to avoid Australia after Oz investors in “Red Planet” and “Moulin Rouge” were denied tax write-offs.

“We would not be seeing so many big budget productions shooting in Queensland or this expansion without the rebate,” said Trisha Rothkrans, chief exec of Ausfilm, the industry’s export group.

Filled up

Village Roadshow chairman John Kirby has confirmed he’s finalizing plans to add two stages to the existing six at the Warner Roadshow lot. “We’re operating at full capacity,” he tells Variety. “We’re working out the costs of adding a couple of soundstages and what (productions) are likely to go in there. We would like to see them built this year.”

Currently lensing at Warner Roadshow is “Ghost Ship,” a thriller produced by Joel Silver for Warners.

Fox Studios is awaiting planning consent to convert the pavilion which previously housed the “Titanic Experience” ride (part of the now-defunct Backlot entertainment area) into a sound stage and to turn another building into a theater for TV shows recorded in front of live auds. The intention is to complete all that work by the end of this year, according to studios manager Rod Allan, who says the rebate is clearly a factor driving producers to Oz.

The Central City Studios consortium, named by the Victorian government in January as the preferred tenderer to build Melbourne’s first purpose-built facility, comprising four film stages and two for TV, hopes to get its plans approved within a couple of weeks. It’s aiming to open its doors in September 2003.

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