Stu­dios Have In­cen­tive to Watch Ge­or­gia Race

Gu­ber­na­to­rial bat­tle shad­owed by law that would per­mit dis­crim­i­na­tion — and thus en­dan­ger film­ing in the state

Variety - - Top Billing - By TED JOHN­SON @ted­stew

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

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