Trying to get legislative approval to strengthen Utah's film-production industry, state officials on Wednesday released figures indicating the industry produces a blockbuster economic impact.
Derek Miller, managing director for corporate recruitment and state incentives at the Governor's Office of Economic Development, told a legislative committee that film companies spent $54 million in Utah during the past fiscal year, and total direct, indirect and induced spending gave the industry a $138 million economic impact.
"It's a significant amount and a great industry that we have here," Miller told the Workforce Services and Community and Economic Development Interim Committee.
State officials are building a case to bolster the Motion Picture Incentive Fund, in part by removing a cap of $500,000 per project. That, they say, will help Utah lure bigger-budget movies and TV series, rather than just lower-budget productions that already are drawn to the state. A draft bill is expected to be ready for the committee in October.
"The opportunity for the state of Utah under this new legislation is huge," said Jason Perry, GOED's executive director.
Other figures compiled by the Governor's Office of Planning and Budget show that $3.9 million of the fund was allocated last year on the film-production industry, which overall produced 379 direct jobs and 1,099 total jobs, $27.5 million in personal income and $2.9 million in new state tax revenue.
The planning and budget office's chief economist, Juliette Tennert, said every dollar spent in the industry results in $1.50 more being spent throughout the economy.
Perry said the benefits range from job creation to increased business for small companies. The current film incentives are only "scratching the surface of what we can do," he said.
The state in recent years has lost out on getting big-budget productions to shoot in Utah. Marshall Moore, executive director of the Utah Film Commission, has said that Utah had been considered for "Wild Hogs," a $90 million-budget Touchstone production; "3:10 to Yuma," a $50 million Lionsgate film; "Transformers," a $125 million Paramount movie; and the latest "Indiana Jones" movie, a $125 million 20th Century Fox film.
Moore on Wednesday added to that list "G.I. Joe," a $200 million movie also produced by Paramount. And Utah stands to lose a new $40 million "Footloose" movie, also from Paramount, a picture not even in pre-production, he said.
"We're struggling right now to compete with Louisiana and most recently Georgia in order to commit that movie to the state," Moore said. "Obviously, we have a history with 'Footloose' being shot in the state some 25 years ago, and we would love to be able to compete to have 'Footloose' and Paramount Pictures here in the state."
Moore also said a pair of TV series Turner Broadcasting's "Leverage" and Lifetime's "Army Wives" were being shot elsewhere after considering Utah. The Turner series was "a production we had at our doorstep," he said, adding that Warner Bros.' "Everwood" had a $100 million economic impact in Utah, and CBS' "Touched by an Angel" produced a $200 million impact over nine seasons.
"They do not look at us and say, 'Hey, Utah is our No. 1 choice,"' Moore said of the big-budget productions. "They will visually, but not economically."
While removing the $500,000 film-incentive cap is expected to be a cornerstone of the pending draft legislation, Miller said another component will be requiring Utah taxes to be paid by producers, stars and others from out of state when working in Utah."It's something that we will be pushing for in the legislation, and you will see, much like the sports industry, when basketball teams from out of state come to play the Jazz, there is a portion of that talent income that is imputed to the state and the state receives a tax benefit," Miller said. "We'd like to see a similar thing happen to the talent that comes in from the movie industry."