The film and TV tax credit that put New Mexico on the map is now nearly two decades old. Launched in 2003, it didn’t just transform the production landscape in the Land of Enchantment, along with a new tax credit in Louisiana, the state also kicked off a domestic incentives arms race that created vibrant industry hubs across the country and changed how projects are financed.
Today, New Mexico offers a base 25% refundable tax credit that can go as high as 35% when other uplifts are factored in. For instance, productions can earn an additional 5% by shooting in one of the state’s 15 qualified production facilities, an offer the state would’ve been unable to make in the early days of the incentive, when productions searching for soundstages usually had to settle for an abandoned warehouse or factory.
The good news for New Mexico — and bad for some visiting productions — is that many of the top soundstage complexes now have full-time occupants.
In 2018, Netflix purchased then-11-year-old ABQ Studios, located six miles south of downtown Albuquerque, for about $30 million. The streamer went on to spend more than $250 million on production in the state between 2019 and 2021 for projects including “Stranger Things,” “End of the Road,” “Army of the Dead” and “Daybreak,” creating more than 5,000 cast and crew jobs, and it’s committed to spending an additional $1 billion in the coming years.
“One of the disruptive revolutionary leaders in entertainment choosing New Mexico as one of their production hubs has put us on the map for everyone else,” says Amber Dodson, director of the New Mexico Film Office. “It was a gamechanger.”
Other studios have followed in Netflix’s wake. Last year, NBCUniversal transformed a disused beer and wine distribution warehouse in northeast Albuquerque into an 80,000-sq.-ft. studio. In August, it was announced that California-based 828 Prods. had agreed to invest $75 million to build a 300,000-sq.-ft. studio and 20-acre backlot in Las Cruces, where productions will qualify for an additional 5% tax credit for shooting in a designated rural filming zone.
Netflix, NBCUniversal and 828 Prods. all made 10-year commitments to the state of New Mexico. The studios agreed to meet production spend and job creation benchmarks — in the case of NBCUniversal, its’s $500 million over the next 10 years and 330 full-time-equivalent jobs — and, in return, they’re eligible to receive Local Economic Development Act (LEDA) funds and the amount of tax credits they earn is not limited by or counted as part of the incentive’s annual $110 million cap.
Direct production spend in New Mexico hit a record $855.4 million in fiscal year 2022, up 36% year-over-year from 2021. The state has also been benefiting from the trickle-down effects of film and TV tourism, which has inspired bicycle and RV tours of “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul” locations.
Netflix is helping further that cause with Netflix in Your Neighborhood, a website launched in September showcasing New Mexico shooting locations from its projects, from the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad (“The Harder They Fall”) to the Skate-O-Mania roller rink in Albuquerque (“Stranger Things”).
While New Mexico is best-known for its arid Southwestern looks, it also has a portion of the Rocky Mountain range and miles upon miles of grassy plains. In the Fox series “The Cleaning Lady,” Albuquerque not only stands in for the show’s primary setting, Las Vegas, it’s also portrayed more exotic locales, including a storm-drenched street in Manila.
“Honestly, there’s really there’s so many fantastic locations in Albuquerque,” says the show’s creator and executive producer Miranda Kwok. “We also get the Albuquerque sunrises and sunsets, which are extraordinary.”