California awards tax credits to 28 pics

Incentive program doles out $100 million to productions

California officials have tapped 28 productions to receive $100 million in tax credits in the fourth year of the state’s incentive program — aimed at preventing production companies from moving their projects, jobs and spending out of the Golden State.

Officials from the state’s film commission did not identify the selections, made Friday via a lottery from a total of 322 applications submitted. The submissions were nearly double last year’s 176.

The state selected 27 projects last year on the first day of the application period — although 74 projects ultimately received credits from last year’s $100 million tax credit allocation due to the large number of smaller independent projects that moved from the waiting list to receive credits as larger projects withdrew from the program.

The credits will be awarded only after productions are completed. California Film Commissioner Amy Lemisch said that each application still needs to be reviewed more thoroughly to ensure the project qualifies under the state regulations governing the program.

California’s program, which offers a maximum rebate of 25%, is far smaller than those of other states.The Golden State’s program provides for $10 million of the $100 million to be reserved for indie films with minimum budgets of $1 million and maximum qualified expenditure budgets of $10 million while feature films with budgets up to $75 million are eligible for a 20% credit. TV movies and miniseries with a minimum budget of $500,000 are eligible for the 20% credit.

TV series that formerly filmed all previous episodes outside California, as well as indie films, are eligible for a 25% credit.

Showbiz producers and unions have been strong supporters of California’s 4-year-old Film and Television Tax Credit Program, which has doled out $400 million in tax credits to date. The program was extended for a year in October when Gov. Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 1069 on the final day for the governor to approve or veto bills from last year’s legislative session.

The final $100 million will be allocated in July 2013 unless the program is extended. Two weeks ago, the State Assembly Revenue and Taxation committee approved a new bill extending California’s Film and Television Tax Credit Program by an additional five years and another $500 million, setting up a hearing later this month by the Assembly Appropriations committee.

A study issued last year by the Los Angeles Economic Development Corp. showed that in its first two years, the program has generated $3.8 billion in economic activity statewide, created more than 20,000 jobs and generated more than $200 million in tax revenues. Opponents of the program contend that the tax credits benefit studios and other well-heeled production companies, and questioned the accuracy of the projections of economic benefits.

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