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As Utah's movie incentive goes up, other states cut theirs

Published June 6, 2011 1:16 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Trust Utah to be late on a trend - this time, the trend is states cutting back on or eliminating tax incentives for film and TV production.

In March, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert signed a law that would raise the Motion Picture Incentive in Utah from 20 percent to 25 percent. The move was made to lure more productions to Utah, which was losing big movies (like "True Grit" and "Cowboys & Aliens") to neighboring New Mexico. (Utah does land its share of films, from the Oscar-nominated "127 Hours" to the Mormon pioneer drama "17 Miracles," pictured.)

Now, though, several states are cutting out funding for such incentives. According to the Tax Foundation (which bills itself as "a nonpartisan tax research group" in Washington, D.C.), eight states either suspended their programs or cut the funding to zero, while another nine (including New Mexico) are either reducing their programs or are thinking about doing so.

The cuts come in part because state budgets are tight, but also because Republicans have taken or strengthened their control in several state legislatures - and want to eliminate the programs out of a twin desire to reduce government and punish those nasty Hollywood liberals.

The Republican-dominated Utah Legislature, though, saw things differently. It was one of eight states that raised the level of their incentives this year.

Over the weekend, producers at a conference in Hollywood talked about the changes in states. The Hollywood Reporter's account includes an anecdote from one panelist, who said the change in New Jersey happened so suddenly that "at least four productions are now left unable to collect on the money they expected back from the state."