California is getting into the “Star Wars” business, with the state committing $20.9 million in tax subsidies for a new Disney+ series called “Star Wars: Skeleton Crew.”
The recent “Star Wars” films have been shot in the United Kingdom, where they receive government subsidies. But four other “Star Wars” TV series, including “The Mandalorian,” have filmed in California without receiving state incentives, according to California Film Commission records. The shows — the others are “The Book of Boba Fett,” “Obi-Wan Kenobi” and “Ahsoka” — have all shot at MBS Media Campus, a state-of-the-art soundstage facility in Manhattan Beach.
“Skeleton Crew” is also rumored to be filming at the location, which is outfitted with ILM’s StageCraft technology.
It will be the second most expensive TV show ever funded by California’s tax credit program, behind only “Penny Dreadful: City of Angels,” a Showtime historical drama that ran for one season in 2020 and received $24.7 million in state incentives. “Skeleton Crew” will receive slightly more than the third season of “Star Trek: Picard,” which got $20.6 million, and “Westworld,” which received $20.5 million for Season 4 and $20.3 million for Season 3.
“Star Wars: Skeleton Crew” is set to debut next year on Disney+ and will tell the story of four children seeking to make their way home in the “Star Wars” universe. It is one of seven TV series that were granted a total of $90.8 million in credits in the latest round of allocations by the California Film Commission.
The state announced the recipients on Monday. The other six shows come from Warner Bros. Discovery, Netflix, and NBC.
Warner Bros. Discovery, which owns HBO, was awarded the majority of the total allocation, with $49.8 million spread across four shows. Two of those — “My Glory” and “Presumed Innocent” — are Apple TV+ shows that Warner Bros. Television is producing with J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot Productions.
The new allocations come thanks to the California Legislature, which agreed last year to pump an additional $180 million into the program over two years.
The program was significantly expanded in 2014 as elected officials sought to fight back against “runaway production.” Supporters are pushing for a further expansion this year, which they argue is needed to keep jobs from leaving the state. The state legislative analyst has warned, however, that some productions will receive a tax credit even if they would have filmed in California anyway, thereby reaping a “windfall” benefit.
California’s program was designed to lure back shows that already film in other states. Relocating shows are awarded a credit for 25% of their qualified production expenditures in their first season in California — compared to 20% for new or recurring shows. Once a show is awarded a credit, it is guaranteed to receive a 20% credit for all future seasons.
By 2019, the program had become so crowded with recurring shows that there was no funding available for new ones. The Legislature’s recent appropriation allowed the program to once again issue subsidies to new shows for the first time in three years.
In addition to “Star Wars: Skeleton Crew,” those shows include “The Sympathizer,” an HBO series starring Robert Downey Jr. ($17.5 million in credits) and “The Residence,” a Netflix series set in the White House from producer Shonda Rhimes ($14 million); along with “Presumed Innocent” from Abrams and David E. Kelley ($12.1 million) and “My Glory,” starring Jennifer Garner ($7.7 million).
“Rap Sh!t,” the HBO series from Issa Rae, will also get a $12.6 million subsidy to relocate to California. The show centers on a South Florida rap group, and the first season was shot last year in Miami. “Killing It,” the Peacock series starring Craig Robinson, will also get $6.2 million to relocate from Louisiana. It, too, is set in Florida, but Florida does not have a state incentive for filming.