Bill includes an effort to curb runaway production

WASHINGTON — The curtain is rapidly closing on Congress’ legislative session and, right now, directors and independent filmmakers are the only members of the entertainment industry offering a standing ovation.

After working through the weekend and the Columbus Day holiday, the Senate put its final seal of approval Monday on a massive corporate tax bill that’s been wending its way through Congress all year. The House approved the legislation last week, and it now awaits the president’s signature.

Bill is a mixed bag for Hollywood. It contains tax relief for movies with budgets between $1 million and $15 million that are made in the U.S. (or up to $20 million if the film is made in a “distressed” area of the country) — an effort to curb runaway production.

But it also will cost the major studios some $4 billion-$6 billion in tax increases over the next decade because House Republicans refused to include a different measure to allow filmmakers to take advantage of tax benefits on lower-profit theatrical distribution separately from higher-margin DVD and broadcast TV sales.

Even the runaway production provision was scaled down from its original version, which would have offered relief for most movies filmed in the U.S. — even blockbusters like “Chicago,” which sparked protests when it was made in Toronto instead of the eponymous U.S. city.

Still, industry sectors that had been trying to convince Congress to protect U.S. film jobs for years were jubilant late Monday.

“It is the (Directors Guild of America’s) hope that this ground-breaking federal tax-incentive legislation, in combination with a growing number of state and local incentives, will stem the tide of film and television productions, and the jobs they create, from going abroad,” DGA prexy Michael Apted said in a statement.

The Independent Film and Television Alliance also cheered the hard-fought victory.

“We’re incredibly gratified with this legislation,” IFTA prexy Jean Prewitt said, calling the bill “the first step” to making production in the U.S. more financially attractive to small independent producers.

TV broadcasters could have something to crow about: the death of a bill that would have dramatically boosted fines for indecency violations.

The indecency bill took a serious beating late last week when it was dropped from a must-pass defense bill. Although its author, Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kansas) has already re-introduced the legislation as a separate bill, its chances this session look very slim.

A raft of anti-piracy bills, which the industry pushed all year, also appears to be facing a watery grave at the end of the session.

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