Inside Move: Land of enhancement

'Zero' could be hero to New Mexico prod'n

When it comes to the movie business, the state of New Mexico is trying hard to live up to its “Land of Enchantment” motto.

Its 15% tax incentive rebate program for production costs helped land the lion’s share of location work on the Paramount/Sony remake of “The Longest Yard.”

And now the state is about to find out whether its 3-year-old strategy of becoming a direct investor in films will pay off.

When Paramount opens “Suspect Zero” on Aug. 27, New Mexico could see profits in its coffers if the film is a hit. After break-even, or $50 million in worldwide box office, the state receives 2.5% of “Suspect Zero” box office revenues. The figure kicks up to 3% if domestic B.O. tops $90 million.

That’s a big if, but the plan is a bold one. New Mexico officials believe it’s the only such program in the U.S.

The pic, which stars Aaron Eckhart and Carrie-Anne Moss, was the state’s first venture into film investing. It invested with Intermedia and Cruise/Wagner in “Suspect Zero” in 2001, providing a $7.5 million interest-free loan toward the pic’s $27 million budget.

It followed with a $4.7 million guaranteed interest-free loan on NuImage’s “Blind Horizon,” a thriller toplined by Val Kilmer, in which the state has 5% profit participation. Borrowers can use the loans for films shot in the state, provided that the crew is comprised of at least 50% New Mexicans.

Greg Kulka, director of alternative investments for New Mexico, says the program has loaned out about $40 million so far and has helped give the state a base of three complete fully trained film crews.

“We see that as key to giving producers a comfort level about coming here,” he says.

Even more intriguing may be the fact that New Mexico still has another $50 million to loan out in hopes of striking box office gold.

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