Lawmakers attempting to bring movies to Colorado
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado
DENVER – Get ready for your close-up, Colorado.
Two state legislators want to attract filmmakers to Colorado by bolstering an incentive fund for movie producers with a proposal to add a 10-cent fee to all movie tickets sold in the state. The lawmakers argue having more movies filmed in Colorado would boost local economies and help promote tourism to the state.
However, the idea appears destined to face a tough test from opponents who see the proposal as another tax burden, not a fee.
Movie-goers might not think of Colorado as an appealing spot for film producers and movie stars to shoot their movies, but that hasn’t always been the case. Remember that scene from “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” where Paul Newman and Robert Redford jump off the edge of a canyon and into a river? That was shot in Durango, Colo. The original “True Grit” that earned John Wayne an Oscar for best actor was shot in locations around Colorado, including Ouray and Ridgeway. The “Perry Mason” television series was filmed in Denver.
But Colorado has recently fallen behind other states that are providing more lucrative incentives for filmmakers, said Vans Stevenson, senior vice president for state government affairs for the Motion Picture Association of America. Colorado is one of 40 states that have tax incentives for movies, but its program is among the least attractive, Stevenson said.
With better incentives, Stevenson said Colorado can become a popular location for filmmakers because of its geographic diversity – from the plains to the mountains to a large urban center in downtown Denver.
“Colorado can look like itself but it can also look like a lot of places,” Stevenson said. He said the 10-cent fee on tickets would be the nation’s first.
Rep. Tom Massey, who is sponsoring the bill to add a 10-cent charge to movie tickets, said the Colorado Film Commission has about $500,000 to use to reimburse costs for filmmakers who come to the state. Colorado offers a 10 percent refund to filmmakers for in-state expenditures.
“For a multi-million dollar film, that doesn’t cut it,” said Massey, who admits he’s a “movie buff.” Massey said adding 10 cents to the price of a ticket would bring an estimated $4 million to the commission’s fund.
More than 350 movies were shot, at least partially, in Colorado from 1897 to 1997, according to the Colorado Film Commission. In the 10 years since, 20 movies were filmed in Colorado.
When “True Grit” was remade last year, it was shot in New Mexico, where filmmakers can get a state sales tax exemption on costs for set construction, wardrobe and equipment rentals. New Mexico also offers a 25 percent refundable income tax credit on film production and postproduction, costs, according to the MPPA. New York recently extended its production tax incentive program with $2.1 billion for the next five years, Stephenson said.
“We used to be able in Colorado to count on our blue sky or beautiful scenery and our sunshine. But that’s not enough anymore,” said Sen. Nancy Spence, a self-described “total movie freak.” Spence is co-sponsoring Massey’s House Bill 1207.
Massey and Spence, both Republicans, concede their dime-a-ticket proposal faces long odds in the Legislature. They say they’ll try to change the proposal to ask voters to approve the fee instead.
The selling point would be that when filmmakers go on location, they spend on everything from restaurants, caterers, carpenters, hotels and shopping, Massey said.
Still, he said he’s mindful that going to the movies has become more expensive in recent years and he’s already heard from people weary of paying an additional 10 cents.
“I mean, I can’t tell you how many calls I’ve had from people saying, ‘You know, this’ll prevent me from being able to go to movies, that extra ten cents.’ It’s kind of ludicrous, but you know, by the same token, movie tickets have gone up a lot,” he said.
Crista Jamison, 43, and her husband, Parke McKinney, 49, said they don’t think an extra 10 cents for a ticket would be bad. But the fact that ticket prices are already expensive has prevented the couple from going to the movies except to take their children to watch the Harry Potter series. So while they said it would be appealing to see their state on the big screen more often, they’re unsure they’ll be able to help make it happen.
“With the economy the way it is now, it’s hard for us to go out and support that,” Jamison said.
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