The movie "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" grossed $197 million domestically. But guess how much it paid in fees to Arches National Park to film opening sequences there.
Zero. As in nada, zilch or zippo."The National Park Service . . . prohibited by law from collecting any fees" for filmmaking, complains Rep. Joel Hefley, R-Colo.
That means, of course, that Arches also could not collect permission fees from any of the other 52 filmmakers per year it has averaged for the past five years - even though they may tie up roads and close portions of the park.
Hefley says that is wrong, so he is pushing a bill to allow film fees again. They were imposed before 1948, but no one in the government now seems to know why they were ever eliminated.
Jim Hansen, R-Utah, chairman of the House Resources Subcommittee on National Parks and Public Lands, held a hearing on the proposal Tuesday in which not only government officials liked the idea, but so did the movie industry.
Fritz E. Attaway, general counsel for the Motion Picture Association of America, said the fees could actually help filmmakers attract more support from park rangers.
"Although the parks can (now) be reimbursed for the costs of filming (ranger time, parking, use of campgrounds, etc.), those recovered costs from filming do not go back to the park location but into the general treasury.
"This encourages park administrators to be indifferent to filming or even hostile, because their efforts to facilitate filming produce no direct return," he said.
But Hefley's bill would keep 80 percent of fees collected in the specific parks where they are collected.
Attaway said filmmakers believe it would not only help relieve tax burdens, but "also provide a very meaningful incentive for park administrators to encourage filming as a means to fund park expenditures."
Assistant Interior Secretary John Berry said adding fees in national parks makes sense, especially because such fees are already charged in national forests and on U.S. Bureau of Land Management areas.
Also, "The Navajo Nation, for instance, charges up to $2,000 a day for the use of Monument Valley," he said. "Similarly, the city of Beverly Hills in California charges fees that exceed $2,000 a day for filming in its city parks."
He noted the Park Service was allowed to charge up to $500 a day as late as 1948. "It is unclear why this policy was changed in late 1948," Berry said.
Hefley said he found out about the ban on film fees when a Colorado resident called his office to complain last year.
Hansen vowed to help Hefley move his bill, saying commercial filming fees are especially appropriate because higher "recreational fees are being charged to the American taxpayer to help resolve the backlog" of repair needs at national parks.
Similarly, National Parks and Conservation Association Vice President William J. Chandler said, "Park visitors are being asked to pay double and triple the fees they paid in recent years, yet film companies have free rein in the parks and are giving very little in return."
While all seemed to like the idea, Attaway called for changes to Hefley's current draft that calls merely for "fair market rates." He said filmmakers would like a firm fee schedule for all parks that is flexible enough to allow for surcharges in unique situations.