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Waves of production flattening in Hawaii

HONOLULU — Hawaii’s film and TV production revenue for 2002 was an unexpected blockbuster, hitting $146 million, 7.4% more than the previous record, $136 million in 2000.

Earlier estimates this year of 2002’s production revenues were $133 million, but that didn’t account for about $10 million spending for locally hosted sporting events like the Pro Bowl, Hula Bowl and Ironman Triathlon, Hawaii Film Office officials said.

Remarkably, the $146 million came in a year when Hawaii had no television series. In 2000, “Baywatch Hawaii” filmed its final season, spending more than $22 million.

The $146 million is a 76% increase over 2001’s paltry $83 million in production revs, the lowest total since 1997’s $71 million.

Hawaii’s production revenues since 1996 have more than doubled despite Hawaii’s higher business costs, the need to ship equipment thousands of miles and other logistical problems of filming in the middle of the Pacific.

Hawaii has stepped up competition in attracting productions with new or improved financial incentives, including Act 221. A major value of the act has been to draw producers’ attention. Since enacted two years ago, two feature films — “Blue Crush” and “The Big Bounce” — have qualified for its investment credits.

Producers also cite Hawaii’s safety, proximity to Los Angeles and its first-rate crew for an upsurge in production.

Donne Dawson, Hawaii Film Office manager, noted, “The state has taken a significant step forward from being a $100 million-a-year industry to $150 million-a-year, and even that’s probably only half of what Hawaii could bring in given the right combination of factors.

“We’re very pleased, but we can’t sit back and relax. Hawaii’s production industry needs sustainability and constant growth.”

Last year’s record production revs largely came from five major features that spent a total of $76.6 million. “Tears of the Sun” spent five months filming on Oahu and about $40 million. The other films are “The Big Bounce,” “Blue Crush,” “Helldorado” and “Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle.”

Episodic TV shows or specials revenues last year doubled from $7.75 million to $15.2 million. Those shows include “The Bachelor,” “Janet Jackson — HBO Live,” “ER,” “One Life to Live,” “High School Reunion,” “My Wife and Kids,” and WB’s “Boarding House: North Shore.”

The first six months of 2003 has seen production revenues of about $50.2 million, well below 2002’s $91.7 million for the same time period.

The second half of 2003 looks slow with only one production, NBC’s episodic series “Average Joe,” committing to film in Hawaii. The hourlong reality series will shoot nine episodes in five weeks next month on the Big Island, spending at least $5 million.

But Dawson said state and county film offices are getting many inquiries from studios about filming here. “They’re talking with us, but no one has stepped up to the plate yet.”

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