California offers movie incentives targeting states with strict abortion bans

Women’s rights protesters march to the Alabama Capitol to protest a passed law making abortion a crime in almost all cases, with no exceptions for rape or incest, on Sunday, May 19 2019, in Montgomery, Ala.

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LOS ANGELES — A California Democratic lawmaker formally introduced a bill on Monday to provide tax breaks to film and television productions that relocate from states where abortion is strictly prohibited.

The proposal comes after GOP Alabama Governor Kay Ivey signed one of the nation’s most restrictive abortion laws last week that bars the procedure even in cases of rape and incest. Other states have also moved to enact strict abortion bans, including Georgia.

“There are actors and actresses who refuse to be part of a production in any of these states,” said Democratic Congresswoman Luz Rivas, who is sponsoring the bill. “I think that really puts pressure on the industry to reconsider if they want to do business in those states.”

According to Rivas, the current film and television tax credits offered in California are “fully underwritten.” She said the proposed expansion of movie incentives is an opportunity to retain more jobs in California’s iconic film industry.

“We are ready to expand [the program] to other states,” said Rivas, who represents an LA County district. “But right now, we’re highlighting those states with strict abortion bans.

Last year, Alabama had a record year for production with nearly 150 projects, some of which received refundable tax credits of up to 35% on qualifying expenses. Similarly, Georgia offers generous tax breaks for productions and had 455 film and TV projects last year, including Marvel Studios’ blockbuster “Black Panther.”

“A lot of the entertainment industry moved to Georgia because that state was very competitive in its own movie tax credit,” Rivas said. “We’re trying to get more of the entertainment industry that’s currently spinning in states with these strict abortion bans to come and do business in California and share our values.”

Rivas said his measure — Assembly Bill 1442 — was officially introduced on Monday and would add to existing incentives the state offers to film and television projects under a credit program. tax. In 2014, California more than tripled the size of its movie incentive program, from $100 million to $330 million per year.

The bill would authorize an additional tax credit beginning in January 2020 for qualified productions that decide not to film in states that have “pending legislation or existing law that prohibits access, criminalizes the provision or otherwise restricts a woman’s access to abortion services after 6 weeks from the start of pregnancy or earlier.”

Film bureaus in Georgia and Alabama did not immediately respond to CNBC’s requests for comment.

In March, the California Film Commission announced that the state had attracted 16 television series to the Golden State, including Showtime’s “Penny Dreadful” saga, with assistance from the Film and Television Tax Credit program. television. He said the production would cost around $99 million and was conditionally approved for nearly $25 million in tax credits.

Rivas said details of the new California movie incentives, including the amount of money that could be made available, are still being worked out. The legislation, officially known as the California Share Our Values ​​Film Tax Incentive, must approve various committees before it can go to the Assembly for a full vote. The process could take over a month.

According to Rivas, the California film industry generates nearly $50 billion for our state’s economy. “California is both a leader in women’s rights and in the film industry,” she said.

Action already underway

Some production companies have already indicated that abortion bans will make a difference to where they decide to shoot film or television projects.

For example, Christine Vachon, the CEO of New York-based Killer Films (“Vox Luz” and “Carol”), tweeted on May 9 that the production company “will no longer consider Georgia as a viable filming location until may this ridiculous law be overturned.”

Additionally, former Disney studio head Nina Jacobson, whose Los Angeles-based production company is behind “Hunger Games” and “Crazy Rich Asians,” tweeted that she agreed with Vachon. Television producer David Simon, known for the HBO show “The Wire”, also indicated via social networks that he was boycotting Georgia.

Even so, others have decided to keep projects in Georgia, including the Netflix film “Hillbilly Elegy” by Ron Howard and Brian Grazer, according to The Hollywood Reporter. CNBC has asked Howard and Grazer’s production company, Imagine Entertainment, for comment.

“After careful consideration and deliberation, we have decided to continue filming Hillbilly Elegy in Georgia next month,” Howard and Grazer said in a joint statement first reported by the reporter. However, the two said they would “boycott the state as a center of production” if the abortion law goes into effect in January.

JJ Abrams and Jordan Peele, meanwhile, reportedly plan to donate episodic fees from HBO’s “Lovecraft Country” series to fight Peach State’s abortion law, according to the reporter, who quoted a statement from both filmmakers. The HBO drama, which is executive produced by Peele and Abrams, is set to start filming in Georgia soon.

Helen D. Jessen