Lawmakers Try Again With Film Incentives Bill

DENVER (CBS4) – From “Thelma and Louise” to “Die Hard II,” hundreds of movies have been shot in Colorado. But over the last decade the state’s film industry has been going dark. Now lawmakers are trying to lure producers back with millions of dollars in tax incentives.

A House committee approved the bill Friday.

Colorado’s film history dates back more than 100 years. From silent westerns to blockbusters, more than 375 movies have been shot in Colorado since the turn of the century. But in the last decade only 22 have been made in the state.

Once a destination for producers, today Colorado is one of the last places they look. The Denver Studio Complex is the only major motion picture soundstage left in the state, and at the end of the month it will be demolished.

“We tried to stay as long as we could; can’t do it,” Ken Seagren with Lighting Services Inc. said.

Seagren has lit dozens of movie sets over 40 years at the complex. He says Colorado’s film fortunes changed in the 1990s. Other states began offering tax breaks to entice film makers. Colorado is one of the few that wouldn’t.

“Even if the script was written for Colorado they would change it and shoot it in New Mexico or Utah,” Seagren said.

They took their money and jobs with them, leaving Colorado’s film industry to die. Now one Hollywood producer has a plan to revive it.

“Believe me they will all want to come,” said Donald Zuckerman, Colorado Film Commissioner.

Zuckerman left Los Angeles to become the state’s film commissioner. He’s asked lawmakers to approve a 20 percent tax incentive for film makers and something no other state offers — a loan guarantee of up to 20 percent.

“The minute we level the playing field on the incentive, people will want to come here because we have everything else,” Zuckerman said.

Producers love the idea and lawmakers are warming up to it as well. The budget committee just approved $4 million in film incentives.

“I think both parties are finally realizing the benefit,” Republican Rep. Tom Massey said.

Massey and Democratic Sen. Linda Newell say the return will be exponential.

“With each film production you bring a minimum of $10 million in revenue into the state,” Newell said.

“They fill hotels, they fill restaurants, they buy gifts, they hire workers,” Massey said.

As for critics who call it a Hollywood handout, Seagren points to the credits that roll at the end of a film.

“Those are all the jobs … it will mean employment for hundreds of people,” he said.

Seagren is moving his business into a warehouse to see how the tax incentive plays out. It’s really aimed at attracting some of the thousands of independent films made every year rather than the couple dozen Hollywood blockbusters.

It also applies to TV shows and video games, and supporters say it’ll not only help the film industry, but the tourism industry as well.

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