Lost tax incentives send show packing

After spending weeks on tenterhooks over the status of New York’s endangered production tax credit, Warner Bros. TV has decided to pull up stakes and relocate production of its hit Fox series “Fringe” to Vancouver.

The show, which reportedly spent $4 million an episode in recession-pummeled New York, originally relocated from Toronto to Long Island’s Silvercup Studios specifically to take advantage of the Empire State’s much-publicized incentives. It applied too late, unfortunately. The $515 million set aside to expand the popular tax program and extend it into 2013 had dried up by the beginning of this year.

J.J. Abrams’ latest sci-fi action show overcame an underperforming first episode to become a breakout hit, earning a full season of episodes in October, when it ranked No. 1 among new shows in auds 18-49. The skein has continued to pull in viewers, and a second season is highly likely.

“In this challenging and uncertain economic environment, we have made the very difficult decision to move the production of ‘Fringe’ from New York to Canada in the event the series is renewed for a second season,” said a Warner Bros. Television spokesman. “We are deeply indebted to the talented New York production crew that helped bring the first season of ‘Fringe’ to life, and we thank them for their invaluable contributions to the show’s success.”

Silvercup prexy Stuart Suna said he had heard rumblings that the globetrotting show was considering a departure. “The funny thing is that the show’s set in Boston, and Massachusetts has a tax credit. But the exchange rate has gotten better for shows shot in Canada,” Suna said.

Series stars Anna Torv and Joshua Jackson; the latter hails from Vancouver.

Suna, in concert with other studio heads and the rest of the New York Production Alliance, is organizing letter-writing and protest campaigns to raise awareness about the amount of money the state stands to lose if the tax credit disappears permanently.

“I think the chances (of seeing the credit replenished) are very good, because the data is good,” said NYPA head John Johnston. “If we were talking about something that hasn’t been tried out or something that hadn’t been implemented in other states, it would be a different case.”

NYPA member groups, including local below-the-line unions, are headed to Albany on Monday to protest, according to Johnston. “Then, all of these various organizations can speak with one voice.”

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