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Incentives increase brings in big films

Cash rebate upped to 15%, post now included

SYDNEY — New Zealand’s government-backed Large Budget Screen Production Grant incentive got a boost in July.

Cash rebate has been set at 12.5% since its introduction in 2003 but was increased to 15% effective July 1; program has also been extended to include post, visual and digital effects, which were previously left out.

Features must spend a minimum of $11.4 million and TV $380,000 per commercial hour to qualify. To get the new post-only coin a feature would need to spend between $2.3 million and $11.4 million.

Judith McCann, topper of Film New Zealand, says the increased incentive has drawn a range of new productions to New Zealand including James Cameron’s digital sci-fi feature “Avatar” — which will have a significant post spend — and segments of Hugh Jackman’s next outing as Wolverine. Local boy Peter Jackson will also be back in the new year with “The Lovely Bones” when he wraps current lensing in Pennsylvania.

And the Kiwis have reason to be hopeful that the new incentive will keep them on the international radar; in the past financial year, the incentive has brought more than $530 million in film investment from big budget pics such as sequel “The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian” and vampire pic “30 Days of Night.”

But there is also some stiff competition stirring from the other Hollywood-friendly feature location in the region. Australia this year announced its producer offset, a 40% tax rebate for features and 20% for television available to projects that spend more than A$1 million ($895,000) Down Under, and pass an as-yet-undefined Australian Content Test.

So where does this put the Kiwis’ moderate incentive lift?

McCann prefers to see the new Oz incentives as more of an opportunity than a threat, allowing greater cooperation between the neighbors.

“Their impact is yet to be seen,” she says. “But we hope that they will actually encourage more Australian/New Zealand co-productions.”

Either way, the importance of Film New Zealand has also been confirmed by the government, which included an additional five-year funding commitment to the location film body, lifting its annual coin to $575,000.

This year also saw Henderson Valley Studios — which used to be home TV skeins “Xena” and “Hercules” — build a large soundstage near Auckland.

Currently housing U.S./Korean co-production “The Laundry Warrior” this new addition has hopes that the boost in coin will see it full for a long time to come.

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