Your Mag Emerson: Relocating an Industry

November 2011

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Shutter Island. The Fighter. The Proposal. The Departed. The Town. And soon to be R.I.P.D, set to release on June 28, 2013. What do all these successful films have in common? Location. Location. Location. As the economy drops and prices rise, making films in ritzy Hollywood becomes more and more expensive. However, the Northeast, like the state of Massachusetts, has found a way to gain from Hollywood’s loss.

A Massachusetts tax credit law has led members of the film industry to flock to Beantown and its surrounding suburbs to save money and increase production. Most recently, R.I.P.D, starring Ryan Reynolds, Jeff Bridges, and Kevin Bacon, has been seen filming scenes all over Boston. R.I.P.D  is about a newly deceased cop (Ryan Reynolds) being recruited into a squad of zombie cops who fight the supernatural. They are rumored to be staying in the Ritz on Tremont St. while filming on locations such as Newbury Street, Milk Street, and the Boston Common.

The tax breaks originally started in 2005 with a law signed by Governor Mitt Romney, and were later upgraded by Governor Deval Patrick in 2007. The law states that if half a movie is shot or half the production budget is spent in Massachusetts the crew is eligible for tax credit of up to 25 cents for every new dollar of spending. Filmmakers who spend 12 months filming in Boston are eligible for a whopping 100% sales tax exemption.. Massachusetts is the only state that allows filmmakers to take unused credits either as a direct rebate at 90% of face value or sell them at the market rate. These prices have made Massachusetts a popular film state, and a more interesting place to live.  Andrea Lewis, freshman film student at Emerson College, says, “It makes it easier to study film on the east coast and kind of be in the action. Like I could get an internship on a major movie production and still live in Boston. That’s awesome!”

By 2009 the law had created 4,972 jobs in Massachusetts. According to the “Film and Television Production in Massachusetts 2010 Industry” report done by UMASS Boston, Massachusetts has topped $675 million since 2006 in film spending. The report estimates that for every dollar spent the state gains $1.95 plus commerce. At this rate, who’s to say that Boston won’t become the new Hollywood?

Tourism has also increased 75% in towns featured in successful films according to The Journal of Travel Research. Tourists are rushing to watch as Leonardo Dicaprio crosses the street or as Ryan Reynolds drives his supernatural gold car. The flourishing film industry of Massachusetts is a hot spot for film junkies following movies.

The benefits for both the citizens of Massachusetts and the film industry are practically infinite. Chloe Sonnenfeld, teen actress and daughter of director Barry and producer Susan Sonnenfeld, says, “I think that the tax breaks for the film industry is a benefit to both the people in the business and to the taxpayers of Massachusetts. It allows people like my dad to film a movie for almost half the price it would take in Hollywood and it allows Massachusetts to make money.” Chloe Sonnenfeld has filmed in many Northeastern states and Canada. She is in films such as Men In Black (II and III) and RV. “The only bad thing about it is the cold weather,” she says.

With so many profits of the film tax breaks it leaves you wondering what’s the catch? And there certainly seems to be none. After all, who can hate a law that allows you to walk past Ryan Reynolds on your daily run through the Common?

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