Palm Beach basks in glow of growing film revenues

The Palm Beach County (Fla.) Film & Television Commission is holding its own against runaway production with a record 21% increase in film revenue over fiscal l998, swelling the state’s film coffers to $92 million for ’99.

Film Commissioner Chuck Elderd credits two unique incentive grants with $35 million-$40 million in production growth in recent years and boosting the professional community with approximately 325 jobs.

A product placement program awards $10,000-$25,000 for productions that display the “Palm Beach County, Fla. — The Best of Everything” tourism logo in the film or film credits. Productions that meet a $5 million minimum budget, employ local crews and utilize a minimum of 1,000 to 2,500 hotel nights in Palm Beach County receive a $10 per room credit.

Entrepreneur lure

Entrepreneurs willing to relocate or build a studio in the county can receive $150,000 or more from a job growth incentive relocation and retention grant funded through the commission budget. Recipients must create a minimum number of new jobs over a three-year period.

A $208,000 grant provided the incentive for Palm Beach Ocean Studios to look to the county rather than New York to build its 21,000-square-foot, $5 million studio.

Much of the film and TV production generated is syndicated international and domestic programming, PBS fare, dot-coms such as MSNBC’s Mark Hamill-hosted “Kids.com” and Alexander Haig’s CNBC “The World Business Review.” The county is also home to Pax TV.

Global is golden

Palm Beach Global Pictures is currently in production on a five-picture deal with Kirton-Hauptner Films. Global, an investment firm, secured approximately $20 million in financing for the K-H production slate. Movies will be shot solely in Palm Beach County and will be sold primarily to foreign markets, while some may have domestic release, with most going directly to cable.

“We’re never going to bring Hollywood or New York here — it was up to us to develop our own entertainment industry,” Elderd said.

Additional incentives include a point of sales tax exemption that provides direct tax relief on motion picture video or sound recording equipment purchased or leased to be used exclusively by the producer as an internal part of production, as well as one-stop free permitting, locations and crew assistance from a 24-hour, seven-day available staff.

Hollywood heads turn

Hollywood has noticed, and as a result, a casting call for extras has gone out from the town of Palm Beach with the greenlighting of MGM’s feature pic “Breakers.”

“Palm Beach has a unique look that is nearly impossible to duplicate,” said producer Clayton Townsend. “It was a main priority for us to include authentic footage.”

The film is primarily shooting in L.A., with location stops in Miami and the Keys. Palm Beach plays a key role with scenes filmed at the Breakers hotel. Pic stars Sigourney Weaver, Gene Hackman, Anne Bancroft, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Jason Lee and Ray Liotta.

* * *

Arizona, celebrating a fiscal production boom with more than three projects filming in the state every week last year, reported $99 million in revenue, more than double the total in fiscal 1998.

Production days for ’99 totaled 1,209, with lensing on all or significant portions of 13 films, including Warner Bros’ “Three Kings” and “Wild Wild West,” and Columbia’s “What Planet Are You From?” TV production included two CBS telepics and more than 13 commercials, industrial films and still-photography projects.

“Arizona played a critical visual role in duplicating Iraqi geography with the added benefit of being a one-hour flight from Los Angeles,” said “Three Kings” producer Charles Roven. “The local crews were talented and dependable, and the town of Casa Grande welcomed us with open arms. The Arizona Film Commission really delivered.”

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