Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Cities and states need to extract more from tax incentive deals with television and movie productions: get ad credits

Recently, there was an issue in Maryland, where the "national politics" tv show "House of Cards" is filmed--not in the national capital--about the level of tax incentives received by the show from the state. I wrote about it here "Economic impact studies are often overstated: impact of "House of Cards" in Maryland."

But this is an issue in many places.  Even the "Tonight Show" received tax incentives to move to NYC from Los Angeles, even though the new host and his sidekicks were already based in NYC and it would have been difficult for them to relocate.

For example, the ABC-TV show Nashville gets state and local tax incentives ("‘Nashville’ incentives for third season up in air," Nashville Tennessean) and like the pressure House of Cards put on Maryland to provide more money, the producers of Nashville have the same issue and are threatening to move the production of the show to Austin, Texas ("With 'Nashville' renewed for third season, attention turns to keeping show in Music City," Tennesean). From the article:
The future of "Nashville" as a local product partly depends on economic incentives from state and local government. For season 2, the state contributed $12.5 million, Metro gave $500,000 and the Nashville Convention and Visitors Corp. added $125,000.

But a newly trimmed annual state budget leaves just roughly $3 million in the Tennessee film incentives fund, which would require more funding from Metro and the CVC to get closer to the $13.1 million provided for season 2.
There are two main reasons for providing tax incentive funding for such production. The first is "economic development" and the multiplier effect from having the show in terms of the development of the local broadcast and film production industry and the number of people employed.

The second is the economic value of tourism benefits. For example with the Nashville show, a survey found that of recent visitors, one in five listed the show as an influence on their choice to visit Nashville. Another illustration is the impact of movies on locales, such as "Field of Dreams" and Iowa ("Field of Dreams' Setting, Tourist Magnet in Iowa, Is to Be Sold," New York Times) or Santa Barbara's wine country vis-a-vis the movie "Sideways" not just the increase in tourism ("They're still toasting 'Sideways' in Santa Barbara wine country," Los Angeles Times) but also the impact on the sales of the wine featured throughout the movie, pinot noir ("A film's boon to pinot noir," New York Times).

Recommendation: Require tourism promotion ads within tv shows, DVDs, etc. as part of the tax incentive deal.  While film tax incentive programs are acknowledged through logos and mentions at the end of the program within the credits, for the most part the impact on tourism is less direct, more circuitous.

I say require that promotional ads are included in the broadcast of the tv show, on the DVD, etc.

Of course, that would make shows like House of Cards and Nashville look funny when the ads are from the State of Maryland/Baltimore and not Washington, DC and from Austin, Texas and not Nashville, Tennessee.

Or I can't remember what movie I caught a little bit of, and it turned out it was filmed in Toronto, because I saw a street sign, and the City of Toronto has one of the most distinctive forms of street sign--some have specific place identifiers and graphic treatments, but all use the same physical format.

Similarly, the Castle tv show is not filmed in NYC, but in Los Angeles, based on the the LA MTA buses that drive by on occasion.

This is the tv ad for Ann Arbor from the Michigan tourism promotion program campaign, "Pure Michigan."  I think the ads could be better but you get the idea...

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