News & Events
Head of state movie office expects busy year in wake of new SAG contract
By Jon Chesto
The Patriot Ledger
May 08, 2009
BOSTON — After a temporarily lull in major motion picture work, the head of the state’s film office expects a busy year for movie production in Massachusetts now that the Screen Actors Guild board has approved a contract with the major studios.
“When there’s a slowdown, everybody suffers,” said Nick Paleologos, the executive director of the Massachusetts Film Office. “I think everybody’s happy to be back to work.”
Massachusetts was humming with film work in the first six months of 2008 as studios rushed to complete filming before a previous contract with the Screen Actors Guild expired on June 30. The threat of a possible strike prevented many pictures from moving forward after that date.
Paleologos said there were at least eight major motion pictures filmed here in the first six months of 2008, including “Bride Wars,” “The Surrogates,” “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” and “Ashecliffe.”
However, in the second half of 2008, production was limited to independent flicks – such as Mel Gibson’s “Edge of Darkness” – and TV pilots – such as “Bunker Hill” and “War in ’04” – because the union and the major production houses hadn’t reached a contract agreement.
The failure to get a contract became a divisive issue for the Screen Actors Guild. The union’s board narrowly approved a two-year contract last month, and is mailing the ballots to union members this month for a vote.
Paleologos said production companies are moving forward because they realize that the union doesn’t have enough votes to go on strike, even if the contract isn’t ratified.
For example, filming began recently on “The Company Men” – a movie starring Ben Affleck and Kevin Costner – once it became clear the labor issue would be resolved, Paleologos said. The film’s crew has visited numerous Boston-area communities in recent weeks, including Quincy, Framingham and Marblehead.
Paleologos said he hopes the state will see four to six major film projects before July. Adam Sandler’s production company, Happy Madison Productions, is planning to return here to shoot “Lake House” following the company’s success with “Mall Cop.”
“There’s already a bunch of projects scouting around for the summer,” Paleologos said. “The end of the SAG (issue) has really removed the only remaining restraint on the production pipeline.”
This state has become a hotbed for film production after the Legislature passed lucrative tax incentives for the industry in late 2005 and sweetened those incentives in 2007. Other states have raced to keep up, prompting Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to sign a modest tax incentive bill in February to try to stem the exodus of productions from California.
Jon Chesto may be reached at email@example.com.
By Sarah Shemkus
Cape Cod Times
May 05, 2009
PLYMOUTH — The future of the proposed Plymouth Rock Studios came into sharper focus last night as the town planning board voted unanimously to approve the master plan for the project. The vote was taken with the stipulation that the town and the developers have 40 days to work out the final details of the agreement.
“It’s another milestone we’ve passed as far as the overall design of the 240 acres,” said Bill Wynne, chief executive of Plymouth Rock Real Estate Investments, the real estate management and development arm of the studio.
The developers expect to break ground on the $550 million project this summer, Wynne said. Construction on the actual studio facilities would not begin for several months after the initial site work begins, he said.
“We got about six to eight months of pushing dirt around before we can really start building,” he said.
Following last night’s vote the studio still has a few more procedural steps to complete.
In January, the developers applied for financing from the state’s new Infrastructure Investment Incentive program — generally referred to as I-Cubed — a $250 million initiative designed to encourage public infrastructure improvements that will support private development. Under the program, cost and risk are shared by private developers, municipalities and the state. Plymouth Rock Studios could receive as much $50 million in financing for roadwork, water and sewer improvements.
The studio is waiting for the state to issue a preliminary approval.
Plymouth’s representative town meeting must then authorize selectmen to finalize the agreement.
A town meeting is scheduled for June 1. It is unclear whether the state will issue its decision in time for town meeting to make a decision at that session.
Last October, town meeting approved a package of tax breaks for the studio and the creation of a movie and entertainment zoning district. Last month, the body authorized roadwork necessary for studio construction.
The studio and the board of selectmen have also sign a memorandum of understanding, in which the developers committed to significant infrastructure investment including the construction of sewer lines and traffic mitigation measures.
The proposed studio would include 14 sound stages, office buildings, a hotel, post-production facilities, a 900-seat theater, restaurants, a visitors center and a 10-acre back lot. The studio is to be built on 240 acres of land currently owned and occupied by the Waverly Oaks Golf Club.
If construction proceeds according to schedule, the studio will open for business in 2010.
By Eileen Curran
April 23, 2009
The recent agreement between the Screen Actors’ Guild and the studios have gotten the cameras rolling again locally. On location with writer/director John Wells, and Academy Award winner Ben Affleck on their new collaboration, COMPANY MEN, Eileen Curran also reports that Massachusetts was selected this week as one of the Top Ten Production States in America outside of LA and NY by the Motion Picture Association of America. Click here for the full story.
April 21, 2009
The Motion Picture Association of America today issued an economic impact report ranking Massachusetts among the top ten production states outside of California and NY—and the only New England state to make the list. Here are key sections of the 2009 MPAA report:
Movie, TV industry contributed 2.5 mil U.S. jobs in 2007
By Georg Szalai
The Hollywood Reporter
April 22, 2009
NEW YORK –The movie and TV industry contributed 2.5 million jobs and $41.1 billion in wages to the U.S. economy in 2007, according to an MPAA report. That’s up from more than 1.3 million jobs and $30.2 billion in 2005 as reported by the trade group in its inaugural report a couple of years ago.
In another key finding, there has been a shift of top production states beyond the traditional entertainment powerhouses of California and New York. Illinois, Texas and Florida are among those that have become more important industry hubs, while Nevada, Arizona and Montana are among those that have lost some luster. MPAA chairman and CEO Dan Glickman will present the findings of the entertainment economic impact study today at the start of the second biennial Business of Show Business symposium in Washington. Under the theme “American Creativity at Work,” the MPAA event is designed to showcase Hollywood’s economic contributions and importance.
U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, Reps. John Conyers, D-Mich., Henry Waxman, D.-Calif., and Steve Scalise, R-La., journalist and former TV host Nick Clooney and studio reps are expected at the event. In addition to panels and other events, actor Dwayne Johnson will give a luncheon speech. The impact study, most of whose data is for 2007 despite the inclusion of some 2008 figures, shows that more than 285,000 people were employed in the core business of producing, marketing, manufacturing and distributing films and TV shows.
The average salary of employees in the core production-related space came in just below $75,000 for 2007, 75% higher than the average salary nationwide, the MPAA found. For 2005, the average pay of $73,000 was nearly 80% above the U.S. average. Overall, there are more than 115,000 entertainment firms in all 50 U.S. states — and 81% of them employ fewer than 10 people. More than 478,000 work in industry functions in related businesses, such as movie theaters, video rental firms, broadcasters, cable operators and online ventures like Hulu.com and TV.com.
The motion picture and TV industry also supports an additional 1.7 million jobs indirectly, up from nearly 1 million in 2005, at companies doing business with Hollywood players, such as apparel retailers, car rental firms, caterers, dry cleaners, transportation companies and lumber and hardware suppliers.
The industry also boosts the cash in state and federal coffers — a key argument in debates over the value of production tax incentives. Taxes paid by film and TV workers in 2007 and sales taxes on goods and services amounted to $13 billion, up $3 billion from 2005. The study couldn’t quantify such other government revenue as corporate income, property and business license taxes or contributions from indirect employment.
According to the MPAA, 40 states plus the District of Columbia have found production activity so economically beneficial that they have incentive programs to attract and maintain productions. Beyond the traditional entertainment hubs of California and New York, the study listed these as the top 10 production states: Illinois, Texas, Florida, Georgia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, North Carolina, Louisiana, Tennessee and Massachusetts. Michigan, Arizona, Connecticut, New Mexico and Utah are “states to watch” based on recent production levels, tax incentives and economic impact of the industry.
The film and TV industry is also “one of the few that consistently generate a positive balance of trade,” according to the MPAA. For 2007, the trade surplus amounted to $13.6 billion, or 10% of the total U.S. private sector trade surplus in services. For 2005, the figures amounted to $9.5 billion and 12%, respectively. U.S. entertainment earned $15 billion in audiovisual services exports in 2007, up 23% from 2006, up more than 50% from 2003 and the highest reading since tracking began in 1992.
Lack Of Movie Studio Tax Credits May Make Mass. A Laughingstock. Again
By Scott Van Voorhis
Banker & Tradesman Columnist
April 20, 2009
States like Connecticut, Rhode Island and New York ate our lunch with gambling, siphoning untold billions of dollars out of the Bay State over the past 15 years.
Now it looks like our neighbors may soon have another laugh at our expense – this time with the growing appetite of Hollywood to produce films in lower-cost locales.
Connecticut and New York in particular have launched aggressive bids to bring in hundreds of millions in new film business and thousands of jobs.
It’s a push that comes with the usual crown of anti-fun-and-everything-else critics here in Massachusetts homing in for the kill as they lobby to block incentives aimed at expanding the state’s growing piece of the film pie.
The antis on Beacon Hill are rallying around new research emanating in part from the Empire State that comes with a rather shocking message indeed. There’s really no use for states like Massachusetts to try to get into the film business – entertainment heavyweights like New York have it all locked up.
The criticism has film industry advocates, having enjoyed solid success attracting film shoots through the lure of state tax credits, looking at further incentives to spur the construction of a full-fledged movie studio. A State House bill that would have kicked off the construction of a major film complex in South Weymouth predictably fizzled last year in the Legislature.
“It’s stupid and so hypocritical,” said state Rep. Brian Wallace, D-South Boston, a longtime legislative champion of the film business. “It’s sour grapes and that is all it is. None of it is true. We are doing it here.”
Not so according to a pair of researchers – a Cornell University professor and a Needham-based employment expert – who recently made a splash with a paper, now under review for publication in an academic journal, that contends it is futile for states like Massachusetts to compete for films against New York and Los Angeles.
The entertainment industry heavyweights simply have an overpowering advantage when it comes to the infrastructure needed to attract and grow the film business, leaving the rest of the country competing for the crumbs.
Yet this argument appears to contradict the thrust of another study put out by the two researchers back in 2006, when they were hired by New York film industry stakeholders to examine the decline – that’s right, decline – of the Empire State’s share of the film and media biz.
The description of the goals of that 2006 study, sponsored by none other than the New York Film, Television and Commercial Initiative, just about says it all:
“There is substantial anecdotal evidence that production is decreasing in New York, with implications for employment of industry professionals and for the position of the city as a media production center. To ensure and build New York’s role in what are now global entertainment and information industries, we need to know why the location of production is changing and to devise a policy agenda that places New York at the center of these industries as a primary location for visual media production.”
Ned Rightor, the Needham-based employment expert and one half of this research team, notes that earlier study was a Cornell University effort in which the industry had no editorial involvement.
The latest study, an academic paper which explores the difficulty other states face going head to head with New York and LA in pursuit of the film business, is not funded by the entertainment industry and reviews years of research by other academics into the effectiveness of film subsidy programs in a range of states, including Massachusetts.
The conclusion, notes Rightor, is not necessarily comforting for New York policy makers either, calling into question all state efforts, including those of the Empire State, to subsidize film production.
While New York has had its challenges, it has entertainment industry infrastructure built up over a century, Rightor contends.
For her part, Susan Christopherson, the Cornell professor, argues Massachusetts would be better off with a more targeted approach, one, that, say, might focus on a niche, like digital media.
That’s good to know.
Take A Look Around
But in my view, you really have to follow the money. And, in this case, the real proof is in the cash other states are pouring into this seemingly futile effort.
Connecticut recently announced plans for millions in tax credits to help get a $65 million studio complex off the ground in South Windsor, as well as a $5 million loan.
It comes atop plans by NBC Universal to build a large television studio at Stamford.
Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, not to be outdone, is giving would-be studio developers in Norristown a $10 million check. No pesky and complicated tax credits here.
But what about New York, the giant against which other states should not even try to compete?
Funny thing, the supposed king of the film production business is apparently feeling a little worried about all that competition out there: enough for Gov. David Paterson and legislators to agree on a $350 million package of tax credits.
By contrast, the Bay State’s efforts to lure the film industry, which have suddenly become controversial here on Beacon Hill, hardly look lavish.
Nearly 20 major film shoots over the past two years have pumped more than $500 million in the state’s economy. Tax credits, by contrast, amounted to roughly $30 million in 2007.
The success has drawn proposals from would-be studio developers, who want to spend hundreds of millions to build a trio of film complexes that could help make Massachusetts “Hollywood East.”
No matter. State lawmakers, some of whom apparently aren’t feeling the heat of the down economy like the rest of us from their comfortable State House perches, balked at spending another $60 million last year in tax credits to help a proposed $300 million studio complex slated for the old South Weymouth airbase get off the ground.
Now that may change, with Wallace, the Legislature’s resident film buff, noting the House is poised to take up the South Weymouth studio proposal again.
Yet there is also a danger the Bay State will repeat all over again, this time with the film business, years of mistakes made with the casino business.
As Connecticut and other states built up lucrative gambling industries, our Beacon Hill antis blocked attempt after attempt to legalize some form of expanded gambling. Who knows what, if any, factor out-of-state casino interests played in this obstruction campaign, though it has long aroused suspicion among political insiders.
Clearly, when it comes to the film business, New York officials are nervously watching Massachusetts and hoping we decide to throw in the towel.
But beyond the gamesmanship, the real victim here is our own state’s now hard-hit economy.
If Beacon Hill had decided to bet a few dollars on the film business last year, we might at least have a studio project or two underway right now.
It’s not too late, and maybe the Legislature will finally pass that studio incentive package.
Ambitious studio projects could make Massachusetts a center for the film industry
By Scott Kirsner, Boston Globe Columnist
April 19, 2009
This spring, Mark Ridder is coordinating golf outings at Waverly Oaks, the country club he co-owns in Plymouth. But by late next year, the clubhouse will have been transformed into a commissary, and Ridder may be playing a new role trying to lure directors, not duffers, to the $450 million Plymouth Rock Studios complex planned for the site.
Amazingly, Plymouth Rock is just one of four projects that could create 25 or more sound stages in Massachusetts over the next two years, designed for TV, movie, video game, and commercial production. (The state currently has none.) It seems surreal enough to make for a good movie trailer, intoned in the typical basso-profundo voice-over: In a time of economic recession and frozen credit, four brave groups of businesspeople are somehow bucking the odds and moving forward with plans for new studios.
Whether there’s a happy ending to this story remains to be seen. In order to start construction this summer, Plymouth Rock is counting on being the first recipient of a $50 million chunk of funding from the state’s new I-Cubed program, which is intended to support infrastructure projects that will create new jobs.
And if both of the bigger projects, Plymouth Rock and ISG Studios in Weymouth, are built, it remains to be seen whether there will be enough activity to keep them busy.
Movie-making in Massachusetts was jump-started by a tax credit former Governor Mitt Romney signed into law in 2005. It gives production companies a 25 percent tax credit on any spending they do in the state. This month, Kevin Costner and Ben Affleck have been shooting “The Company Men” in Boston, and scouts have reportedly been seeking locations for the sequel to “Paul Blart: Mall Cop.” (Much of the original was filmed at the Burlington Mall.) In 2009, 13 movies spent a total of $359 million in the state.
But the major constraint to luring more movie dollars to Massachusetts is the lack of sound stages: large indoor spaces where sets can be built. (Sound stages also usually have office space nearby for the production team and postproduction facilities for editing, special effects, and other finishing work.) Today, film crews that need indoor space often wind up using hockey rinks, raw warehouses, and vacant office buildings.
“One of the things that holds us back in New England is the weather,” says Nick Paleologos, executive director of the Massachusetts Film Office. “To the extent that we’re able to provide the industry with state-of-the-art facilities that can be used year-round, the level of production here would ramp up another notch.”
Plymouth Rock is the most ambitious of the projects: 14 sound stages spread over 240 acres that could employ 1,500 people to build and up to 2,000 people once it is in operation. Chief executive David Kirkpatrick describes it as “the first really 21st century digital studio.” Last year, he committed to donate $25 million to the MIT Media Lab to create a new Center for Future Storytelling. The Media Lab will have a satellite outpost at Plymouth Rock Studios where a half-dozen researchers will explore things like next-generation cameras and digital sets.
Kirkpatrick, a former president of Paramount Pictures, says much of that Media Lab research funding will come from marketing sponsorships he has sold in connection with the studio, though he cannot yet name the sponsors. He’s also a bit opaque about the source of the studio’s construction funding.
Cambridge-based C Change Investments is committed to making “a substantial investment in the tens of millions of dollars” in Plymouth Rock, according to general counsel David D. Brown. But that firm, formed last November, has not yet finished raising an investment pool of its own. Kirkpatrick says he is counting on $50 million in infrastructure funding from the state’s I-Cubed program, along with several hundred million from various pension funds, which he expects to finalize in late June.
The purchase of the Waverly Oaks Golf Club – Kirkpatrick says the price is $16.5 million – also has not yet closed. (Ridder, the co-owner, says he and much of his staff have been offered positions with Plymouth Rock.) Kirkpatrick says construction will start in October. By that time, ISG Boston Studios could also be taking shape in Weymouth, on the site of the former South Weymouth Naval Air Station. The executives behind ISG Boston have run the historic Sunset-Gower Studios in Hollywood, and were involved with the creation of the TV series “Rome” and “Nash Bridges.” The first phase of the ISG project will include six sound stages on 30 acres.
Allan Kassirer, one of the ISG partners, said that the group was still working on the design and permitting, but that the financing for the first phase of construction was nailed down. It will come from developer LNR Property Corp., which is turning the former Navy base into a planned community called SouthField.
LNR vice president Kevin Chase says that the funding – $100 million in total for phase one and phase two – will come from LNR’s own equity fund and lines of credit.
Two entrepreneurs are planning smaller facilities in South Boston. Billy Mead is in the late phase of getting permits for a 2,500-square-foot sound stage on Dorchester Avenue. Mead, who already owns a movie equipment rental company and several production firms, hopes to add a slightly bigger 4,000-square-foot stage later this year. “We call it Plymouth Pebble, as opposed to Plymouth Rock,” he quips.
He expects the stages will be ideal for making how-to DVDs and shooting commercials and music videos.
And real estate developer Tim Pappas hopes to build two 20,000-square-foot sound stages on land he already owns on Summer Street, just past the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. (Pappas didn’t return phone calls seeking comment.)
Paleologos, the cheerleader-in-chief for the movie industry in Massachusetts, says he doesn’t necessarily expect all of the projects to be built. “But the fact that they’re still pressing ahead in this kind of negative environment only underscores our point that this will be a thriving, growing industry of the future – and that we have a better than average shot of becoming the Northeast’s hub of film, TV, and digital media production,” he says.
It’s a laudable goal. To reach it, we’ll need more than new studios and a tax credit, since other states dangle even richer incentives. What I see as the best way to differentiate Massachusetts over the long term is staking out a strong position at the convergence of film, video games, and digital media.
Scott Kirsner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
(April 16, 2009) Plymouth Rock Studios’ popular video blog, THE SERIES, takes a quick look at the Massachusetts Film Tax Credit.
By Gayle Fee and Laura Raposa
Boston Herald, The Inside Track
April 14, 2009
Cambridge homey Ben Affleck, in Roxbury yesterday filming scenes for his new flick, “The Company Men,,” says he believes he has made the last movie about a newspaper, with the upcoming “State of Play.”
“This is a movie made around the time that the Internet destroyed newspapers, which is happening now,” said Affleck, who plays a congressman who is being investigated by reporters at the failing, flailing Washington Globe.
(Any resemblance to Affleck’s other hometown paper is, we’re sure, entirely coincidental!)
“All the newspapers are falling apart,” Affleck told MTV.com . “and the Internet is going to take over, for better or for worse. It could be this completely biased, rancorous, ugly noise that takes the place of journalism.”
Yesterday, Affleck and co-star Kevin Costner were on location in Roxbury shooting scenes for the upcoming “The Company Men.” The flick, by “ER” producer John Wells, is about corporate downsizing. Kind of like in the newspaper business . . . .
Affleck plays a corporate hotshot who loses his six-figure salary, his penthouse and his Porsche after he’s laid off. Costner is his brother-in-law, a drywall installer who takes pity on the disenfranchised yuppie and gives him a construction job.
Yesterday, the cast and crew were shooting a scene at two scaffolding-bedecked triple-deckers. Apparently, these are the post-downsizing construction scenes.
BTW, Tommy Lee Jones is also in the cast, but he hasn’t been spotted yet. The Oscar winner plays a senior partner of Affleck’s firm who is horrified by his greedy partners. Apparently, he’s not heard of AIG – or The New York Times [NYT]!
File Under: Stop the Presses!
And speaking of Ben, Dorchester actress Trudi Goodman, who played a creepy drug addict in Affleck’s made-in-Boston thriller “Gone Baby Gone,” is taking her talents to the stage in a one-woman show based on her family.
“You have everyone from bookies to chief rabbis,” she said of the family depicted in “Sunny Side of the Street: Scenes From Real and Unreal Life,” which is in pre-production.
Goodman, who also has had roles in the made-in-Boston flicks “21” and “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past,” said life as an actress has gotten a lot easier since her role in “Gone Baby Gone.” And she credits the director for giving her the part.
“God Bless Ben Affleck,” she said. “He made it possible for me to get my (Screen Actors Guild) union card.”
Article URL: http://www.bostonherald.com/track/inside_track/view.bg?articleid=1165440
Boston University Journalism student Kristine Leahy turns in this report on the Massachusetts Film Tax Credit Program. March 31, 2009
By Rachelle Cohen
March 31, 2009
Boston Herald, Op-Ed
The fight over those state film tax credits is getting to have a kind of “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” vibe about it.
Now there’s a philosophical case to be made against tax credits. But by all accounts the one passed in Massachusetts in 2005 and expanded in 2007 seems to be working well in an otherwise down economy. The two production companies filming here now – and the competing plans for soundstage capacity – are on-going testament to that.
But the argument advanced by a purported Cornell University “study” reported on Saturday in the Herald has somewhat suspicious origins as alluded to by one of today’s letter writers (see article below).
It seems that the very same Susan Christopherson at Cornell University who told the Herald, “It’s very unlikely Massachusetts will be able to create a sustainable industry on the level of Los Angeles or New York” has, shall we say, issues. She argues against the “lunatic competition” by 40 states all going after the same pot of business.
Well, at the risk of being somewhat parochial, we are Boston, not Keokuk. But that aside, Christopherson’s Web site (nyecon.cornell.edu) gives a rather different – and more candid – view of the nature of her research:
“An industry coalition, The New York Film, Television and Commercial Initiative, including New York studio owners, producers, and representatives from labor unions and guilds, has joined together to sponsor a study that will enable policy-makers to ensure New York’s [emphasis ours] role as a major center for media production in the world.”
Christopherson also notes, “There is substantial anecdotal evidence that production is decreasing in New York . . . we need to know why the location of production is changing and to devise a policy agenda that places New York at the center of these industries . . .”
Of course, New York still has a cap on its film credits, similar to the one removed here in 2007 – which might explain its problem.
And don’t even get us started on the idiocy of a “study” that compares film tax credits to government spending on the arts (a figure that didn’t, of course, include the benefits of tax-exempt status for the many nonprofit arts organizations in our community).
Yes, the competition for film business is fierce. But doesn’t it behoove academics to put away the chainsaw and stick to facts?
Film buffs reel over drama of tax subsidies
By Dave Wedge
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Bay State film biz backers say a new study slamming movie industry subsidies is tainted because the authors once worked for New York film moguls, but the researchers are standing firmly behind the report.
Study authors Ned Rightor and Susan Christopherson, a professor at Cornell University, were paid by Big Apple film execs for a 2006 study that examined “the reasons behind the decline in commercial production in New York in the past 15 years.”
This week, the pair released a separate, independent report that criticized government tax credits for the industry and said states such as Massachusetts are wasting precious tax dollars trying to keep up with New York and Los Angeles.
“This is the equivalent of someone in New York saying, ‘Don’t bother spending any money on a baseball team up there because how in the world are you ever going to beat the Yankees?’ ” said Massachusetts Film Office head Nick Paleologos. “I don’t agree with the result and I don’t agree that Massachusetts can’t compete in this $60 billion industry. We’re doing it.”
Forty-three states now give film industry tax incentives, but Massachusetts has one of the most generous packages, which has led to 20 major productions shooting here in the past 18 months. There are also three studios in the planning stages in Weymouth, Plymouth and South Boston. “What we’re doing here is right,” state Rep. Brian Wallace (D-S. Boston) said. “New York is now chasing us.”
But Rightor said the new study is critical of all taxpayer giveaways for the film industry – including in New York. “In the end, we are not in favor of the whole game of offering subsidies to finance film projects,” Rightor said. “I think everyone is being played equally.” The new report, titled “The Creative Economy as ‘Big Business: Evaluating State Strategies to Lure Film Makers,” was not funded by any industry entity and is the result of “years of research,” Rightor said.
The king of screens
By Gayle Fee and Laura Raposa
Boston Herald, The Inside Track
March 26, 2009
Blart is back!
Overachieving made-in-Boston comedy “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” made a whopping $141 million at the box office, so it should come as no surprise that production peeps are already scouting Massachusetts for a sequel.
The Kevin James flick about a policeman wannabe who foils a heist at the mall he is sworn to protect was filmed at the Burlington Mall and South Shore Plaza last year. It cost just $36 million to make and stunned the studio when it pulled in a way-better-than-expected $39.2 million in its opening weekend.
The total domestic haul for the flick was waaaay above the pundits’ wildest dreams for a low-budget comedy with a leading man who, while a success on TV with “King of Queens,” was a big-screen dark horse.
Which is why, we assume, the Happy guys at Adam Sandler’s Happy Madison are rushing into production on “Blart II.”
Word is, location scouts already have scoped out car czar Ernie Boch Jr .’s Ferrari dealership for the flick, which has Paul Blart being fired from his mall cop gig and being forced to find work as a zookeeper at the Franklin Park Zoo.
“One day this beautiful girl comes to the zoo and he asks her out,” Boch told the Track. “She tells him, ‘I can’t go out with you, you feed animals at the zoo for a living!’ So he asks his brother, who runs the Ferrari/ Maserati dealership, for a job and he hires him.”
Both James and Sandler are scheduled to be in Massachusetts to shoot the tentatively titled “Lake House” starting in May. Boch says he’s been told they’ll start “Blart Two” in June or July.
Looks like it’s shaping up to be a rather funny summer!
Stoked for Stooges
And speaking of movies, word from the Left Coast is that the Farrelly Brothers and MGM are closing in on a cast for the Rhode Island filmmakers’ nyuck-nyuck-nyuckfest, “The Three Stooges.”
Variety reports that Sean Penn will follow up his Oscar-winning role in “Milk” by playing middle Stooge Larry. Jim Carrey, who did “Dumb & Dumber” with Bobby and Peter Farrelly, is in negotiations to play Curly and is making plans to gain 40 pounds for the role. The studio is eyeing Benicio Del Toro to play Moe.
The Farrellys have said they hope to film the movie in New England.
Woo, woo, woo!
By John Keenan and Brian Wallace
Saturday, March 21, 2009
Boston Herald, Op-Ed
With a multibillion dollar budget deficit looming and unemployment at 7.8 percent and rising, Massachusetts is desperately seeking growth industries. Fortunately, we have one in our own back yard that has generated $545 million in direct new spending over the past three years. Biotech? Green energy? Try again – it’s film.
In late 2005, Gov. Mitt Romney signed into law the Massachusetts Film Tax Credit (FTC), a production incentive that made Massachusetts competitive enough to draw producers who had previously confined their filming to the New York-California circuit.
In 2007, Gov. Deval Patrick and the Legislature improved the dynamic by extending the tax credit’s expiration date, lifting the credit cap for larger features, and modifying it to include more independent films and digital media productions.
Today, we’re benefiting from the results with more than 25 major motion pictures, films and TV projects produced in state since 2006, and the number of people employed in the Massachusetts film industry growing by 11 percent in the same period.
With film attendance up this year, developing Massachusetts’ motion picture, TV and digital media industry is a hedge against the recession and a good investment. According to figures released last spring by the state Department of Revenue (DOR), the cost of the film tax credit is only 14 cents for each new dollar generated in the state’s economy by the film industry. DOR also estimated that the credit could bring in more than 5,000 new jobs with annual salaries of between $40,000 and $70,000.
DOR’s figures are even more impressive because they did not include local taxes, fees and business generated for cities and towns during production, such as the $150,000 that Essex will reap in property use and parking fees from an upcoming Adam Sandler movie.
DOR’s figures also don’t include promotion and tourism dollars generated by local motion picture projects. How many of your out-of-town guests demanded to visit the L Street Tavern after “Good Will Hunting” came out? Finally, DOR’s projections did not include the half-billion dollars of new private investment likely to be generated by the construction and operation of several new proposed sound stages. In short, the benefits to the local economy far outweigh the costs.
“Hollywood East” isn’t just a clever sales pitch. It means getting our fair share of a $60 billion industry that every year enjoys a balance of trade surplus of $10 billion – even in bad economic times. It means creating private sector jobs with private sector pension and health care benefits at a cost of pennies on the dollar.
And it means desperately needed revenue for cities and towns. In addition to Boston, communities as diverse as Salem, Andover, Burlington, Gloucester, Haverhill, Hull, Lawrence, Lenox, Lowell, Medfield, Plymouth, Rockport, Taunton, Woburn and Worcester have benefited directly from spending generated by the Film Tax Credit.
The Bay State’s success has even riled California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who – despite the traditional allure of Hollywood – publicly fretted last year that Massachusetts is luring away tens of thousand of jobs.
Because of this incentive, and the new economic activity it has already generated, Massachusetts is well on its way to becoming the Northeast regional center for film, television and digital media. The question, therefore – especially now – is not whether we can afford the film tax credit. The question is, can we afford to lose the jobs and revenue the film tax credit has brought to Massachusetts.
Rep. John Keenan (D-Salem) is chairman of the Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts and Cultural Development. Rep. Brian Wallace (D-South Boston) is one of the original authors of the tax credit legislation.
Article URL: http://www.bostonherald.com/news/opinion/op_ed/view.bg?articleid=1160085
Actors join independent drama starring Affleck
March 19, 2009
By MICHAEL FLEMING
Kevin Costner and Tommy Lee Jones are set to star in “The Company Men,” an independently financed drama about the impact that a corporate downsizing has on both its casualties and survivors. They join Ben Affleck, who was set last fall.
John Wells wrote the script and will direct. Production begins in April in Boston.
Wells, Claire Rudnick Polstein and Paula Weinstein are producing. Barbara Hall is exec producer.
Affleck plays a corporate hotshot whose Porsche and six-figure salary vanish after he gets laid off. Costner plays his brother-in-law, a salt-of-the-earth drywall installer who gives him a construction job.
Jones plays a senior partner in the firm, a principled man who struggles with the greedy actions of his partners.
Costner takes the role as he works to set up “The One,” a film he will direct from a script he penned with “Dances With Wolves” writer Michael Blake, based on an idea by Blake. Costner will star as a free-spirited man who inherits $3 billion, leading him on an adventure and an eventual collision with pirates in the Cayman Islands.
Jones is working on a directing project as well, talking to financiers about “Islands in the Stream,” an adaptation of the Ernest Hemingway tale that Jones wrote, will direct, star in and produce through his Javelina Film Co. banner.
Pilots flying outbound despite tax plan
March 16, 2009
By CYNTHIA LITTLETON
Pilot season is all over the map this year as the majors squeeze budgets and chase production incentive coin throughout the country and up north in Toronto and Vancouver.
Of the 39 hourlong pilots and presentations that have been ordered by the Big Four and CW, at least 20 are skedded to shoot outside California’s borders.
The pilot flight comes just as the Golden State has approved a $500 million, five-year production tax credit incentive program (Daily Variety, Feb. 20). But that program is seen by many in the TV biz as too little too late, and with too many strings attached.
Indeed, broadcast net execs are grumbling about the decision to limit California’s incentives for new TV series to hourlong skeins for basic cable (with episodic budgets of at least $1 million). Producers of gameshows, talkshows, news programs, reality skeins, docus and porn need not apply; those types of productions are not eligible for the credit.Below-the-line workers in Southern California were already bracing for a down year as networks slash development budgets and studios pull back on pic production. But the steady migration of pilot work to other time zones promises an even bigger hit to the local job market; then there’s the ripple effect on the local economy from those lost studio dollars and lost paychecks for local workers.
This year, Providence, R.I.; Baltimore; Boston; Atlanta; Chicago; Richmond, Va.; and Pittsburgh are among the unusual locales where broadcast net pilots are being produced, and all are in states that offer production tax-incentive carrots. Twentieth Century Fox TV has traveled as far as Prague for its “Da Vinci Code”-esque thriller “Masterwork” for Fox, though that decision was made as much for storyline purposes as anything else.
New York has lured a lot of TV production out of Los Angeles County over the past few years with its rich tax-incentive program, but the much-publicized uncertainty about the future of those credits for new productions, amid the state’s $14 billion budget deficit, sent studios shopping for lures in the other 48 states.
New Jersey, which recently greenlit its own incentives, has benefited from Albany’s paralysis, landing the NBC/Universal Media Studios drama pilot “Mercy” and CBS/CBS Paramount’s 9/11-themed drama “Back” (portions of which are also shot in Toronto).
One reason the California incentives targeted basic cable hours is that those shows are among the most likely to head across the border for the savings. California’s plan, which formally kicks in July 1, offers a 20%-25% tax credit on below-the-line expenditures (capped for features at $75 million).
“This bill very specifically targets those types of productions that have been leaving for years,” said a spokesman for state Assemblyman Paul Krekorian (D-Burbank), who sponsored the legislation.
As a way of taking aim at successful tax credit programs in other states, the plan does offer a 25% incentive to shows, broadcast or cable, that were previously produced in other states but relocate to California. But studio execs note that there are enormous moving costs that come with relocating a show, not to mention the hassle factor for stars and key production staffers.
Top brass at one of the Big Four networks recently asked state officials whether a pilot shot outside California would qualify for the credit if it relocated to the state for its regular episodic production. The answer was no.
Biz insiders with an interest in keeping production in California say they’re frustrated by the notion in Sacramento that a tax incentive program is a giveaway to Hollywood. Studies of programs in other states have shown that film incentives more than pay for themselves in generating tax revenues that wouldn’t otherwise exist, plus they drive spending in local businesses not directly tied to showbiz.
An Ernst and Young study of New York’s incentive program found that its production incentives will have generated $2.7 billion in tax coin between 2005 and 2010, of which $685 million will be refunded to producers through the credits (Daily Variety, March 2).With so many other states getting aggressive, California can no longer afford to take the film and TV production business for granted, said Paul Audley, prexy of the FilmL.A. permitting org. The stats aren’t in yet, but the anecdotal evidence is clear that filming days in L.A. will be down significantly this year during the January-April pilot season, usually a peak period for local lensing.
“What really happened is the doors opened a crack in California (with the incentive program). If they want it to have real impact, they need to open the door a lot wider,” said Audley. “The (state) legislature needs to recognize that production has just gone from this state. What’s left will be gone unless they do something to help preserve it. We are in grave danger of losing the business.”
Net and studio execs have become adept at monitoring the status of productions from afar through digitally delivered dailies and other tech tools, though many admit that in a perfect world they’d prefer to have their productions closer to home. Dramas are typically the projects to travel because they cost so much more than half-hours, but this year ABC and NBC have a handful of single-camera laffers set up in other cities.
At the same time, for pilots ordered to series, execs admit it can be a struggle to persuade established thesps to relocate to off-the-beaten-path locales, so there is sure to be some pressure on shows to settle down for episodic production in more cosmopolitan locations.
Canada, with its local production incentives and currency exchange-rate advantages, also made a big comeback as a pilot hot spot after cooling off in recent years for all but lower-budget broadcast and cable fare.
Warner Bros. TV is doing three pilots in Vancouver (Fox’s “Human Target,” ABC’s “V” and CW’s “Vampire Diaries”); CBS Par has four hours spread among Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal (CW’s “Light Years” and “A Beautiful Life”; CBS’ “The Good Wife” and untitled U.S. attorney drama). ABC Studios has ABC drama “Happy Town” and 20th Century Fox TV has its Fox drama “Maggie Hill” in Toronto.
Warners is also at work in Baltimore with its “Reincarnationist” drama pilot for Fox; CBS Par has CBS medical drama “Three Rivers” lensing in Pittsburgh and the Beltway-centered “Body Politic” presentation for CW filming in Richmond.
ABC Studios has two of its single-camera half-hours in Vancouver: ABC’s “No Heroics” and “Pulling.” Universal Media Studios has single-camera buddy cop comedy “Off Duty” pounding the pavement in Gotham and the single-cam romantic comedy “State of Romance” unfolding in Chi, both for NBC.
Overall, ABC Studios has been among the most active in exploring its options outside of Gotham and Canada. It has two flags planted in Providence with the ABC drama “Empire State” and CBS drama “House Rules,” both of which hail from Mark Gordon Prods., so it made sense to keep them close together. Beantown is home to ABC Studios’ ABC hour “See Cate Run,” while the studio headed south for an Atlanta backdrop to ABC’s untitled Daniel Cerone cop drama.
By Robert Cann
Gloucester Daily Times
March 10, 2009
ESSEX — Adam Sandler’s comedies are known for producing grins.
His next movie, to be filmed this summer in Essex, has already brought smiles to the faces of residents. “It’s the most exciting thing that’s happened in many years,” said Bob Coviello, owner of Main Street Antiques and member of the Essex Merchant group. Selectmen entered into an agreement Monday night with Lakefront Productions Inc. to film a feature movie starring Sandler at the town’s Centennial Grove this summer. “It brings a lot of energy to our town during difficult economic times,” said Selectman Chairman Ray Randall, who added that there will be financial benefits for the town.
The agreement, which gives the production company the right to use Centennial Grove, the Field of Dreams baseball field and “Grove Cottage,” from this week until Sept. 15, will bring the town $150,000 in property use and parking fees. That money, divided evenly into three payments, will go into the general fund for the year in which they’re received, said Town Administrator Brendhan Zubricki.
The first two payments — one due this week and a second due May 1, will go into the fiscal 2009 general fund and will be used as free cash, Zubricki said. The third payment will come when the filming is finished.
“It could not come at a better time for us,” said Finance Committee Chairman Jeff Soulard. “This becomes a huge bonus for us that can really help us bridge the gap between now and when we get back to some better economic times.”
Beyond the “financial boon to the town to lease the Grove,” said Coviello, “there will be considerable spill-off, I assume, to local businesses, restaurants and antique shops.”
“It’s a great uplift in terms of spirits,” Coveillo said. “It’s been a long winter.”
Bob Hastings, executive director of the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce, hailed the film agreement as “a great story not only for Essex, but for all of Cape Ann.” He said that not only will news of the movie bring more tourists to the area, but movie crews will also be renting houses and spending “a tremendous amount of money in the area to support the film.”
The last movie to be shot in Essex was “The Crucible,” which was filmed on Hog Island in 1995. Kurt Wilhelm, of the Essex Historical Commission, said that during filming, Winona Ryder, who starred in the film, lived on Western Avenue.
Hastings said that the agreement to shoot this movie, as well as other recent films that have been shot in the area, are examples of the positive impact of the commonwealth’s recent incentives — most notably an upgrading of the Massachusetts Film Tax Credit in 2006. That package makes companies that spend at least half of their production budget in the state eligible for a tax credit of 25 cents for every dollar of spent in Massachusetts.
“When the government provides economic incentives, you get economic benefits out of it,” Hastings said. Most recently, Mel Gibson was in Rockport filming “The Edge of Darkness” last September and Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds shot many scenes for “The Proposal” — due out in June — in Rockport and other locations throughout Cape Ann last spring.
Randall and Zubricki both said that they do not yet know the movie’s title, or much detail about it. However, Randall said the movie is about “a group of guys who are hanging out together at a summer cottage, and they play basketball and baseball. I assume it’s a comedy, because Adam Sandler’s in it.”
A spokewoman for Happy Madison Productions, which was founded by Adam Sandler and is affiliated with Lakefront Productions Inc., said she could not comment on the movie. The Internet Movie Database (IMDB.com) is reporting that an Adam Sandler project due for a “summer start date” also includes Chris Rock, David Spade, Kevin James and Rob Schneider, but that has not been confirmed.
Lakefront Productions Inc. will turn Grove Cottage into a movie set and will have “exclusive rights to Centennial Grove during the production of the film,” said Randall.
Town officials said selectmen will be contacting any groups that will be displaced by filming to help them find alternative facilities. Randall said that the summer recreation program and teams that use the baseball fields are likely to be impacted by this. The town’s statement also said that Lakefront Productions Inc. will be providing “support and donations for all those affected.” According to the agreement, this includes $6,000 to relocate the Essex MusicFest and $7,000 to relocate seven other Centennial Grove users. The production company will also be donating $3,000 to the Essex Youth Commission, $1,000 to the Essex Council on Aging, and $25,000 to Manchester Essex Little League.
The agreement also specifies that the production company must return the property to the town “in as good condition as when received.”
“It’s a positive benefit to the town of Essex,” Randall said. “A little Hollywood stimulus.”
Robert Cann can be reached at email@example.com
March 11, 2009
(NECN:Alysha Palumbo) – Plymouth, Massachusetts is celebrating a new project that should create hundreds of jobs. Today, plans to build a new movie studio took a major step forward.
The script is written, the stage is set, and now Plymouth Rock Studios appears to be on the fast track to opening night.
Sen. Therese Murray, President of Massachusetts State Senate: “This is our future – not only for Plymouth, but for Massachusetts.”
After years of planning, it looks like Massachusetts will finally get its 500-million dollar film and television studio complex. The environmentally friendly project will be the first of its kind on the east coast.
Sen. Therese Murray, President of Massachusetts State Senate: “Wise infrastructure investments and the creation of jobs is going to get us on to the road to recovery.”
This is the Waverly Oaks Golf Club – it’s 240 acres of rolling hills and beautiful scenery and it’s soon to be the home of the Plymouth Rock Studios.
David Kirkpatrick, Chairman of Plymouth Rock Studios: “This isn’t just a bricks and mortar operation, this is really a life style – a life style we think can bring tremendous economies to the commonwealth.”
Organizers say this project will not only continue the commonwealth’s current trend of becoming an increasingly desirable place to make movies, but it will provide work in a time when the state’s unemployment rate hovers at 7.4%.
William DeMello, Brockton Building Trades Council President: “They’re going to put 1500 people to work, they’re going to put more people to work after it’s built, they’re going to bring in people to work when they’re making movies, it’s just going to help out the economy in Massachusetts tremendously.”
In an economy when builders have arguably been hit the hardest, this type of work is ray of light in an otherwise dark time.
Frank Callahan, Mass. Building Trades Council President: “It means an awful lot to us, we have roughly 18% unemployment in the construction industry all across the state and to put any of our members to work it would be good even in a good economy, but to do it in an economy like this is really something else.”
And beyond that, State Senate President Therese Murray says green projects like this one will create green collar jobs far into the future.
Sen. Therese Murray, President of Massachusetts State Senate: “If we work together and we make the investments to train current and future generations for these types of jobs, and industry that’s just starting to bloom is going to explode in this state, and more importantly will keep those jobs in Massachusetts for our residents.”
By MICHAEL CIEPLY and BROOKS BARNES
New York Times
March 1, 2009
LOS ANGELES — Hollywood could get used to this recession thing.
While much of the economy is teetering between bust and bailout, the movie industry has been startled by a box-office surge that has little precedent in the modern era. Suddenly it seems as if everyone is going to the movies, with ticket sales this year up 17.5 percent, to $1.7 billion, according to Media by Numbers, a box-office tracking company.
And it is not just because ticket prices are higher. Attendance has also jumped, by nearly 16 percent. If that pace continues through the year, it would amount to the biggest box-office surge in at least two decades.
Americans, for the moment, just want to hide in a very dark place, said Martin Kaplan, the director of the Norman Lear Center for the study of entertainment and society at the University of Southern California.
“It’s not rocket science,” he said. “People want to forget their troubles, and they want to be with other people.”
Helping feed the surge is the mix of movies, which have been more audience-friendly in recent months as the studios have tried to adjust after the lackluster sales of more somber and serious films.
As she stood in line at the 18-screen Bridge theater complex here on Thursday to buy weekend tickets for “Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience,” Angel Hernandez was not thinking much about escaping reality. Instead, Ms. Hernandez, a Los Angeles parking lot attendant and mother of four young girls, was focused on one very specific reality: her wallet.
Even with the movie carrying a premium price of $15 because of its 3-D effects — children’s tickets typically run $9 at the Bridge — Ms. Hernandez saw the experience as a bargain. “Spending hundreds of dollars to take them to Disneyland is ridiculous right now,” she said. “For $60 and some candy money I can still be a good mom and give them a little fun.”
A lot of parents may have been thinking the same thing Friday, as “Jonas Brothers” sold out more than 800 theaters, according to MovieTickets.com, and was expected to sell a powerful $25 million or more in tickets.
Other movies kept up their blistering sales pace, too, including “Tyler Perry’s Madea Goes to Jail,” about a gun-toting grandma. Even “Taken,” a relatively low-cost thriller starring Liam Neeson, is barreling past the $100 million mark this weekend.
Historically speaking, the old saw that movies do well in hard times is not precisely true. The last time Hollywood enjoyed a double-digit jump in attendance was 1989, when the unemployment rate was at a comfortable 5.4 percent and the Gothic tone of that year’s big hit, “Batman,” seemed mostly the stuff of fantasy. That year, the number of moviegoers shot up 16.4 percent, according to Box Office Mojo, a box-office reporting service.
In 1982, theater attendance jumped 10.1 percent to about 1.18 billion (the top seller was “E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial”) as unemployment rose sharply past 10 percent. Then admissions fell nearly 12 percent, an unusually sharp drop, in 1985 (the “Back to the Future” year), as the economy picked up — suggesting that theater owners have sometimes found fortunes in times of distress, and distress in good times.
Academic research on the matter is scant. One often-quoted scholarly study by Michelle Pautz, of Elon University, was published by the journal Issues in Political Economy in 2002. Over all, it said, the portion of the American population that attended movies on a weekly basis dropped from around 65 percent in 1930 to about 10 percent in the 1960s, and pretty much stayed there.
The film industry appears to have had a hand in its recent good luck. Over the last year or two, studios have released movies that are happier, scarier or just less depressing than what came before. After poor results for a spate of serious dramas built around the Middle East (“The Kingdom,” “Lions for Lambs,” “Rendition”), Hollywood got back to comedies like “Paul Blart: Mall Cop,” a review-proof lark about an overstuffed security guard.
“A bunch of movies have come along that don’t make you think too much,” said Marc Abraham, a producer whose next film is a remake of “The Thing.”
Certainly exhibitors are looking for a profit lift in the downturn. A new report from Global Media Intelligence on Friday predicted that the fortunes of movie theater operators like Regal Entertainment and Cinemark Holdings would be “increasingly favorable against a backdrop of highly negative economic news.”
Cinematic quality has little to do with it. The recent crop of Oscar nominees has fared poorly, for the most part, at the box office. Lighter fare has drawn the crowds. “It would take a very generous person to call these pictures anything other than middle-of-the-road, at best,” said Roger Smith the executive editor of Global Media Intelligence.
The box-office surge started just before Christmas with the comedy “Marley & Me,” in which Jennifer Aniston was upstaged by a dog. And it has continued, weekend by weekend, with little sign of let-up, analysts say.
“Watchmen,” a dark superhero film, opens March 6 and is expected to do megawatt business. It is to be followed by “Monsters vs. Aliens,” a 3-D behemoth from DreamWorks Animation that analysts expect to have the biggest March opening ever for a nonsequel.
Movie theaters are already adding 3 a.m. screenings for “Watchmen” next week, and advance sales by online ticket companies like Fandango and MovieTickets.com have been strong. “Fandango is experiencing the best first quarter in its history for ticket sales,” said Rick Butler, its chief operating officer. “I see no signs of a drop-off.”