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Lights, Cameras, Subsidies?

July 05, 2011 J

There’s only one thing worse than jumping on a bandwagon just because everyone else is doing it. That’s jumping on a bandwagon that has run off the road and is crumpled in a ditch.

A lot of states have been throwing tax money Hollywood’s way, with promises that film industry “incentives” will give them a starring role in more movies and television shows. They imagine the “movie tourism” this will generate. They are seduced by promises that they will become “Hollywood East,” “Hollywood North,” “Hollywood South,” etc. But like most of what the film industry sells, it’s mostly just hype, fantasy and illusion.

Many states have discovered that this, like so many other corporate welfare schemes, mostly enriches those who pocket the payments, with fewer ancillary benefits for the economy at large. Most of the jobs generated are temporary ones. Scams have been documented. And as soon as one shoot wraps, the production companies and movie stars move on, chasing even greater subsidies offered by other states, which seem to be competing with eachother to throw money at movie stars.

Colorado has been flirting with jumping on the film incentives bandwagon for years. And there are still those pushing the state in this direction, despite ample evidence that Hollywood handouts deliver little or no lasting return on investment, and despite the fact that many states that were early to jump aboard this bandwagon are now jumping off. One benefit of not jumping first is that you can see how hard or soft the landing will be for those who go before you — like Michigan, for instance. We in Colorado now have the benefit of their experience, without going to the necessary expense. Let’s learn from other states’ mistakes and leave this idea where it belongs — on the cutting room floor.

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