The House took a step Wednesday to end a free ride for filmmakers in the national parks.
The House Resources Committee passed a bill to allow the National Park Service to charge fees for moviemaking. Such fees have been banned by law since 1948 (although no one in hearings this year could discover why that was originally ordered).Supporters have pointed out how "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade," for example, grossed $312 million in U.S. sales and rentals but was not required to pay anything to Utah's Arches National Park for key sequences that it filmed there.
Some other high-grossing films made in Utah national parks that likewise were not required to pay any site fees (according to Senate documents) included: "City Slickers II" (Arches); "Thelma and Louise" (Arches and Canyonlands); "Romancing the Stone" (Zion); and "Planet of the Apes" (Glen Canyon).
The bill by Rep. Joel Hefley, R-Colo., would authorize the secretary of Interior to establish a filming fee schedule based on factors such as number of people on site and duration of shooting.
It is designed not to affect newsreel, television news or recreational still photography. Proceeds from the location fees would remain in the park where they are collected.
Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah, who held hearings on the bill as chairman of the Resources Subcommittee on National Parks and Public Lands, hailed its passage in the full committee.
"This very needed legislation now gives the National Park Service the authority to at least collect some fees from movies companies that have generated some of the highest gross receipts of any films ever made," he said.
The bill now goes to the full House. The Senate is considering similar legislation. Moviemakers generally support the legislation, saying they are willing to pay their fair share - and believe the fees may bring more cooperation from parks.