The movie business is booming in Utah and other takeaways from a new culture industry report

Much of the job growth is in Utah’s motion-picture industry, according to the Gardner Institute study.

Utah’s cultural industry is supporting more jobs than before the COVID-19 pandemic, with the movie and sound recording industry growing faster than any other sector, according to a new report.

The report, released Friday by the University of Utah’s Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute, found that the culture industry — film, performing arts, museums, publishing and so on — directly supported nearly 70,000 jobs in 2022, spending $14.9 billion.

That’s more than 4,000 jobs above the number of such jobs in 2019, before the pandemic. It’s around 10,000 more jobs than in 2020, when the pandemic began.

Ernesto Balderas, interim executive director of the Utah Cultural Alliance, noted Friday during a news conference at the Utah Capitol that nearly 2,000 of the jobs added in 2022, compared to 2021, were in the motion picture and sound industry.

That’s an increase of 35.5% in Utah’s motion picture industry, higher than any other state in the nation, he said.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Ernesto Banderas, interim director of the Utah Cultural Alliance, presents positive numbers of jobs added over previous years in the cultural industry, during a news conference at the Utah Capitol on Friday, Feb. 2, 2024.

Balderas attributed much of that growth “to the enactment of the rural film economic incentive program, and indicative of the growth we will continue to see if that program continues.”

A bill that would extend the rural film incentive program, HB78, has passed the Utah House and is awaiting action in the Senate.

Rep. Jefferson Moss, R-Saratoga Springs and the House majority leader, said the cultural industry “has been a really good return on investment for the state of Utah.”

Moss noted, among the statistics in the Gardner Institute’s report, that the cultural industry “generated roughly $477 million in direct tax revenue” in 2022.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) House Majority Leader Jefferson Moss, R-Saratoga Springs, says the cultural industry “has been a really good return on investment for the state of Utah,” during a news conference at the Utah Capitol on Friday, Feb. 2, 2024.

“We also benefit from a diverse outdoor recreation, historical and cultural opportunities in the state, which is really helping to support the state’s $11 billion tourism industry,” Moss said. “Over the last five years, roughly 13% of Utah’s visitors come here primarily for cultural offerings. … Utah generated roughly $780 million in direct spending [for] Utah’s economy.”

Friday’s news conference was part of Cultural Industry Advocacy Day at the Utah Capitol, where the rotunda was abuzz with people representing many of the state’s major cultural institutions and businesses. People staffed booths for such organizations as the Megaplex Theatres, Salt Lake City’s Utah Museum of Contemporary Arts, Park City’s Kimball Arts Center, Cedar City’s Utah Shakespeare Festival, Salt Lake County’s Zoo Arts and Parks (ZAP) and the Utah Library Association, among others.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Kids experience foam gnomes through chemical reactions as the Utah Capitol hosts Culture Industry Advocacy Day on the hill celebrating arts, film, libraries, humanities, museums and STEM in Utah on Friday, Feb. 2, 2024.

Friday’s festivities also took note of the 125th anniversary of the formation of the Utah Division of Arts and Museums, the first state-created arts and culture agency in the nation, according to its director, Vicki Bourns.

Bourns read a proclamation from Gov. Spencer Cox, declaring February as “Utah Division of Arts and Museums Month.” The proclamation read, in part, “whereas arts and museums inspire and connect people and communities across the great State of Utah, encouraging a vibrant and culturally engaged state; whereas participation in arts, museums and other cultural activities fosters skills necessary for solving 21st century problems.”

Early last year, the division lost its longtime office space in Glendinning Mansion, which also housed the Alice Gallery, which is named for the division’s founder, former Utah Rep. Alice Merrill Horne. The mansion — on the same block as the Kearns Mansion, the governor’s official residence, was repurposed for security for Cox. The division now is housed in temporary office space in Millcreek.

(IFC Films) Kyle Gallner, left, and Grace Van Dien in the thriller "What Comes Around," directed by Amy Redford. The movie, released in 2023, was shot in Park City over 16 days during the COVID-19 pandemic. A report from the Gardner Institute found substantial growth in the motion picture industry in Utah in 2022.

Among the findings in the Gardner Institute report:

• $14.9 billion of direct spending in Utah’s culture industry helped support nearly 70,000 jobs, and represents just over 3% of Utah’s total output in 2022. (In 2020, output was at $9.8 billion, in 2021 it was at $12.8 billion.)

• The nearly 70,000 jobs also had a 7.2% year-over increase from 2021. The report states, that was “the fourth fastest year-over growth rate among all job sectors after leisure and hospitality, information, and natural resources and mining.”

• Of all the jobs in Utah, 8.4% were “directly or indirectly” supported by the cultural industry — an increase from 7.5% in 2021.

• The area that added the most jobs from 2021 to 2022 — a total of 1,970 — was the motion picture and sound recording sector. But, radio, television and social media broadcasting saw the greatest decline, losing about 1,000 jobs.

• The report also found that the “‘job profile” of the cultural industry has shifted. For example, 10 years ago, marketing, advertising and design represented 26.2% of jobs, but now make up 32.4%.

• In 2013, 15.7% jobs came from the publishing and broadcasting sector, but in 2022 only 9.2%.

• Though the Utah Legislature increased funding for the cultural sector in 2020, in fiscal years 2023 and 2024, the Legislature decreased the funding for Utah Arts and Museums by $2 million.