Mayor hugs H’wood

Villaraigosa also hints that NFL will return

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa held a news conference Thursday to underline his commitment to keeping TV and film production jobs from leaving Los Angeles. The mayor, who made his comments in the first of what he promises to be weekly news conferences, also hinted that the NFL will soon return to Los Angeles.

Villaraigosa, who said he planned to pay a visit to the “Mission: Impossible 3” set later on Thursday, also pledged to do away with the fees charged to production companies for shooting on city property and repeated his support for the enactment of state tax incentives for projects in California. He also promised a new series of city initiatives to combat runaway production.

“The Los Angeles region is by far the world’s largest and most concentrated entertainment industry base and infrastructure,” the mayor said. “However, if you don’t nurture it, if we don’t protect it, if we’re not marketing the talent and production in this city, this city will die on the vine.”

Villaraigosa acknowledged that Thursday’s news conference and the elimination of city fees — he said L.A. charges around $500 per day to shoot at City Hall — was primarily a symbolic gesture.

“It’s a message that we’re committed to being a partner with you. We want to do everything possible to promote film in the city, including using our city facilities whenever possible.”

The tax incentive package that Villaraigosa said he supports, A.B. 777, was stalled in the state Senate after it was introduced by Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez.

It would have provided up to $100 million per year in tax credits for productions filmed primarily in California. Law would return up to 15% of a production’s costs for wages and equipment in the form of a tax credit, up to $3 million per production.

Despite support from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Republicans in the legislature questioned whether the state should, in effect, subsidize the entertainment industry at a time when the state budget was drowning in red ink.

A spokesman for Nunez said the speaker had reached an agreement with the governor so the provision would be reintroduced as part of Schwarzenegger’s budget next January.

In a statement, Motion Picture Assn. of America chief Dan Glickman saluted Villaraigosa’s comments on Thursday. “We appreciate his reference to some of our common interests and goals today in his very first press briefing and look forward to working with the city to make some of them reality.”

Aides to the mayor said City Council action would likely be required before fees for production on city property could be lifted.

In regards to pro football, Villaraigosa said he had spoken recently with representatives of NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue and he believed that an L.A. team would be announced as soon as late this year.

“I can’t tell you a specific timeline, but I can tell you that I do believe a decision will be made some time later this year or early next year,” he said. “There’s a very real commitment on the part of the NFL to bring a football team here in Los Angeles. With that kind of commitment, I suspect we’ll get one very soon.”

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