Maltese dreams come true

Island hopes to lure foreign prod'ns with rebate

As Steven Spielberg’s “War of the Worlds” smashed box office records around the globe last week, the helmer quietly started lensing his latest feature on Malta. Pic is the first to benefit from the Mediterranean island’s cash rebate scheme.

Under the scheme, which came into effect at the end of June, producers can receive a rebate of up to 20% of their expenditure on the island. Spielberg’s pic, about an Israeli hit squad sent to hunt the terrorists behind the 1972 Munich massacre, will receive a rebate from the government of Malta equivalent to 15% of its eligible spend in Malta.

The island hopes to lure more foreign productions. U.K. and German indie pics and one other Hollywood movie have applied for the rebate.

The cash rebate is applied to all labor and services such as hotels and restaurants as well as per diems paid to foreign crews.

Malta boasts labor costs that are about 30% cheaper than the European average, as well as a well-developed tourist infrastructure, with English-speaking crews and labor.

A second incentive offers investment credits and tax rebates for companies offering services to the Maltese industry, whether they’re based in Malta or abroad.

“Malta can double for nearly any country in Europe and all within a small area,” says Oliver Mallia, director of the Malta Film Commission. “We also have facilities like water tanks that are unique in Europe and are an added draw. The purpose of the new incentives is to ensure a constant flow of productions to Malta.”

The island does have one major drawback for Spielberg. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the assassination on Malta of Fathi Shikaki, leader of militant Palestinian group Islamic Jihad. Although the killers have never been identified, it is widely believed the assassination was the work of the Israeli secret service.

Given the subject of Spielberg’s pic and his presence on the island, there has been some concern over the helmer’s safety.

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