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Utah lawmakers to consider larger movie incentives

Utah lawmakers to consider larger movie incentives

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Utah film industry leaders are hoping to lure the production of more blockbuster movies to the state by offering a larger tax incentive.

The Governor's Office of Economic Development is set to present a proposal to state lawmakers Wednesday calling for an increase in the state's rebate for motion picture expenditures, from 20 percent to as much as 30 percent.

The larger incentive is intended to make the state more competitive with nearby New Mexico, a longtime rival because it offers similar geography and a 25 percent rebate, among other incentives.

In the past year, New Mexico beat out Utah for productions of the films "Cowboys & Aliens," starring Harrison Ford, and the remake of "True Grit," featuring Jeff Bridges. Those productions have spent hundreds of millions of dollars in New Mexico.

"At 20 percent, we're just not getting the looks that we'd like right now," said Marshall Moore, director of the Utah Film Commission.

Utah is one of a dozen states that currently offers a 20 percent rebate or tax credit. Another 11 states offer a 25 percent incentive, while eight states offer a 30 percent incentive. Several other states offer incentives between 35 percent and 44 percent.

Spencer Eccles, executive director of the Governor's Office of Economic Development, said Tuesday his office is still fine-tuning exactly how the incentive program might change, but it would involve a minimum rebate offer of 25 percent to put the state on par with New Mexico.

Eccles said GOED wants to make sure the state is able to entice more productions without relinquishing too much of the money those productions spend here.

He said Utah's proximity to Los Angeles and an existing infrastructure for the industry here means Utah doesn't have to offer tax breaks as large as some other states to be competitive.

"There's no reason to do more than we should. We try to always be as conservative as possible to get as much taxpayer bang for the buck as we can," he said.

To qualify for the Utah rebate or post-production tax incentive, productions must spend at least $1 million.

In August, a legislative committee indicated it was supportive of offering larger incentives. Any changes to Utah's incentives program couldn't be approved until lawmakers convene for their annual session in January.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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Brock Vergakis writer


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