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Incentives keep rolling

Tax breaks create jobs and major revenue for Illinois

Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich is rolling the film incentive dice one more time, extending them for yet another year.

The state’s wait-and-see approach since 2003 has provided a yearly payoff with returning film and TV productions boosting film revenues 200%.

Pol extended the film tax credits through 2006 by signing Senate Bill 1965 this month on the set of Universal Pictures’ “The Break-Up,” a romantic comedy currently lensing in Chicago starring Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston.

And while the state’s 2004 film revenue of $77 million would account for half the budget of one Hollywood tentpole, those dollars translated into 15,000 jobs for Illinois residents.

Senate Bill 1965, sponsored by state Sen. Rickey Hendon (D-Chicago) and state Rep. Ken Dunkin (D-Chicago), extends the film tax credit legislation for another year, with provisions making it easier to use and encouraging the hiring of Illinois workers from high unemployment areas.

The governor resurrected the state’s declining film industry by signing Senate Bill 785 in 2003, making Illinois more competitive. Legislation provides a tax credit equal to 25% of the first $25,000 in wages paid to residents working on television and film projects shot in Illinois.

“This piece of legislation made it financially attractive for the production of “The Break-Up” to shoot entirely in my hometown of Chicago and will continue to entice future projects to the state,” said Vaughn, who’s also producing the pic.

In addition to “The Break-Up,” Illinois will be home to its first TV series in five years. The Brett Ratner-helmed Fox series, “Prison Break,” in production at Joliet Prison, is expected to air late August.

Additional films scheduled or currently lensing include Warner Bros.’ “II Mare” with Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock; Mandate Pictures’ “Stranger Than Fiction” with Will Ferrell, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Dustin Hoffman, Queen Latifah and Emma Thompson.

“Illinois has such strong talent and we can keep them working, in front of the camera and behind the scenes, as the Illinois Film Office continues to foster relationships in Hollywood to rebuild the Illinois film industry,” said Brenda Sexton, managing director of the Illinois Film Office.

* * *

Need a bridge?

South Carolina’s Cooper River bridges doubled for New York structures in “Die Hard: With a Vengeance” and are available until early fall when they’re skedded for demolition.

Bridges are parallel, one built in 1929 and the second in 1966. Both span two miles 50-ft. above the Cooper River, and are 15-ft. higher than New York’s Brooklyn Bridge.

Interested parties may contact Dan Rogers at the South Carolina Film Commission: 803-737-0496 or drogers@sccommerce.com.

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