Studios Have Incentive to Watch Georgia Race
Gubernatorial battle shadowed by law that would permit discrimination — and thus endanger filming in the state
THE ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY’S battleground state in the pivotal Nov. 6 midterm elections just might be Georgia.
Celebrities and liberal-leaning industry figures have campaigned hard for bigname candidates like Beto O’rourke in Texas and countless other Democratic politicians across the nation. But, one key race that could impact studios’ pocketbooks will be who moves into the Atlanta governor’s mansion, which will be vacated by outgoing Gov. Nathan Deal, a Republican, due to term limits.
Democrat Stacey Abrams, the 44-yearold seeking to become the nation’s first African-american woman elected to a governorship, is backed by the likes of Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Ben Affleck, Kevin Bacon and Chris Rock. Her Republican opponent, Secretary of State Brian Kemp, is endorsed by President Donald Trump.
So why is Hollywood so invested in what seems to be a typical partisan political skirmish? The race in many ways reflects the influence in the state of the entertainment industry, which, largely driven by Georgia’s 30% production tax credit, now makes up a significant sector of the state’s economy. According to Georgia officials, film and TV production generated about $2.7 billion in direct spending in the 12 months that ended on June 30.
Both candidates support the production incentive — which has made Georgia the U.S. leader in the making of big-budget tentpoles, such as “Black Panther” and “Avengers: Infinity War.”
Where they differ is on an issue that has triggered alarm bells among the major studios: so- called religious freedom legislation. Such a law would allow individuals or private businesses to engage in behavior considered discriminatory under federal law if such laws violate a person’s religious convictions. For instance, if a baker or florist objects to same-sex marriage, the individual wouldn’t be required to serve a same-sex couple.
When the Georgia legislature passed a religious freedom bill in 2016, studios