British Columbia enjoys $280 mil in new prod'n

VANCOUVER — British Columbia’s hefty new tax incentives are paying off already for struggling producers and studios who rely heavily on U.S. service work: “X-Men 3″ is now expected to begin shooting here in July.

About C$350 million ($280 million) in new feature film and TV productions have inked since Jan. 18, when provincial tax credits were hiked from 11% to 18% for foreign productions, according to John Les, minister of small business and economic development.

Some of the six films and five TV shows included in this total had threatened to move to Ontario, which had raised its labor tax credits in December.

“What’s gratifying is that these productions have decided to come here or stay here, as opposed to taking off to Ontario and Quebec,” said Les.

“We bought some time with the interim measures that the B.C finance minister announced a few weeks ago (Daily Variety, Jan. 21), and hopefully in the next six months we can get some solid footing for the industry,” he added.

“I was in a meeting with senior Sony executives when the B.C. tax incentive announcement was made — the reaction was immediately positive,” said Sasha McLean, prexy of Vancouver Film Studios. “Since that meeting, the industry has signed two large feature films with a combined budget in the neighborhood of $100 million.

“We’re basically full now at Vancouver Film Studios, and the year looks positive,” said McLean. “Thirty days ago, things looked bleak.”

“X2: X-Men United” was shot at Vancouver Film Studios with Ross Fanger as unit production manager. “The increased tax incentive program has moved British Columbia to the top of my list as a destination of choice for ‘X-Men 3,’ ” Fanger said.

Fox said it is committed to keeping the May 5, 2006 release date for “X-Men 3,” although it has not yet named a helmer to replace Bryan Singer. He helmed the first two films but has deserted the third to do “Superman.”

B.C.’s new tax incentives have made a big difference in the industry’s balance sheet, according to Peter Leitch, prexy of Lions Gate Studios and chair of the Motion Picture Assn. of B.C. “They send a strong message to our customers in Los Angeles,” he said.

Legislation is expected that will ensure the higher tax credit rates will continue until March 31, 2006.

B.C. is the third largest film and TV production center after Los Angeles and New York.

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