HONG KONG – New Zealand is to increase its financial incentives for international and local films and expand the subsidy scheme for TV productions. The two main film funds will be merged into a new, larger and uncapped fund.

The rebate on international film and television productions now rises from 15% to 20%. A further 5% will be available for international productions that deliver significant economic benefits to New Zealand, with eligibility to be assessed through a points system.

The three new “Avatar” films will qualify for the full 25% subsidy if they fulfill all the conditions of an agreement signed in Wellington today.

The moves were announced by Prime Minister John Key and ministers for economic development and culture. They come as the New Zealand-made “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” claimed some $73 million in its opening weekend in North America and enjoyed success with a $54 million international release.

“This sends a strong message internationally that New Zealand is competitive and that the screen sector is backed by the New Zealand government,” says Film New Zealand chair Julian Grimmond.  “When combined with New Zealand’s reputation for talent, and some significant cost advantages, it makes a convincing argument for international production to come to New Zealand.”

The existing Screen Production Incentive Fund and Large Budget Screen Production Grant will be combined to form the New Zealand Screen Production Grant, which will have no ceiling. The new measures take effect from April 1, 2014.

As well as the boost to New Zealand’s international location attraction appeal, the moves are intended to bring more financial assistance for mid-budget level New Zealand productions.

New Zealand productions will continue to be able to access 40%, but that will now be extended to television and productions with larger budgets.  The two tiered system will take the form of a rebate on productions up to NX$15m ($12.4 million) qualifying New Zealand production expenditure (QNZPE) and equity on productions between MZ$15m and NZ$50m ($41.2 million) QNZPE.