Utah sees rapid growth in film and tele­vi­sion pro­duc­tions

Antelope Valley Press (Sunday) - - Business - By MOR­GAN SMITH

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s tree-lined sub­urbs and sweep­ing land­scapes of red bluffs, deserts and lakes have in­creas­ingly dot­ted the sil­ver screen in re­cent years, serv­ing as the back­drop for sev­eral pop­u­lar movies and TV shows in­clud­ing “Hered­i­tary,” ‘’West­world,” and the Dis­ney Chan­nel series “Andi Mack.”

The Bee­hive State has seen con­sid­er­able growth in its tele­vi­sion and film pro­duc­tions since 2015, with to­tal dol­lars spent by pro­duc­tions more than dou­bling to about $87 mil­lion, ac­cord­ing to a re­cent re­port from the state-spon­sored Utah Film Com­mis­sion.

That growth can be cred­ited to an ag­gres­sive strat­egy by state of­fi­cials to court big­ger pro­duc­tion com­pa­nies and pro­mote scout­ing lo­ca­tions for TV series that pro­vide more jobs and longer eco­nomic in­vest­ments than movies, said Vir­ginia Peace, the di­rec­tor of the Utah Film Com­mis­sion.

“We had to ask our­selves: How do we make the most of what we have, get the big­gest bang for our buck?” Pearce added.

Still, Utah struggles to com­pete with Bri­tish Columbia and New Mex­ico, lo­ca­tions with sim­i­lar looks that can of­fer bet­ter tax breaks for pro­duc­tions.

The state cur­rently of­fers up to a 25% tax credit or cash rebate on money spent by pro­duc­tions in the state, with the pro­gram capped at about $8 mil­lion each year. The pro­gram is con­sid­ered con­ser­va­tive com­pared to other states such as Illi­nois and Ge­or­gia with larger breaks and no cap.

Utah en­joyed steady suc­cess in the en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try through­out the 20th cen­tury as the site of the Sun­dance Film Fes­ti­val and sev­eral high-gross­ing films in­clud­ing “Foot­loose,” ‘’The Sand­lot” and “For­rest Gump.”

But pro­duc­tion slowed in Utah dur­ing the early 2000s as other states in­tro­duced more com­pet­i­tive in­cen­tive pro­grams.

State leg­is­la­tors ini­tially balked at in­cen­tive pack­ages that re­quired sig­nif­i­cant front-load­ing of state funds to sup­port tax breaks and in­cen­tives for pro­duc­tion com­pa­nies. The stronger, re­vised in­cen­tive pro­gram pro­posed by Repub­li­can Rep. Greg

Hughes was fi­nally put in place in 2012.

Pearce, who be­gan lead­ing the film com­mis­sion in 2014, lever­aged Utah’s prox­im­ity to Los An­ge­les and its unique scenery to at­tract more pro­duc­ers to the state.

Her strat­egy helped cul­ti­vate a strong part­ner­ship with Dis­ney, which has filmed at least 20 movies in Utah and re­cently wrapped up film­ing its show “High School Mu­si­cal: The Mu­si­cal: The Series,” set to pre­miere next month.

Susette Hsi­ung, the ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent of pro­duc­tion for Dis­ney Chan­nel, has worked on pro­duc­tions in Utah for about 20 years.

She said Dis­ney has ben­e­fited from Utah’s family-friendly at­mos­phere and di­verse film­ing lo­ca­tions.

Chris Pizzello/In­vi­sion/ AP file photo

In this Jan. 24 file photo, Matt Ar­nett of At­lanta, pro­ducer of the Sun­dance Film Fes­ti­val nar­ra­tive short “I Snuck Off the Slave Ship,” takes a pic­ture of the Egyp­tian Theatre mar­quee on the first day of the 2019 Sun­dance Film Fes­ti­val in Park City, Utah.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.