The following appeared in the Greensboro News & Record:
With governors and legislatures in South Carolina and Georgia every bit as conservative and Republican as in North Carolina, our two neighbors to the south are luring away movies and television shows that used to spend their money here because those states are willing to pay more in incentives.
As Richard Barron reported Sunday, North Carolina’s once-robust film industry may be going the way of the drive-in. Among the latest to leave was the production company of the series “Sleepy Hollow,” which had become a fixture in Wilmington. Now the cops-and-ghosts fantasy has moved to Georgia.
Another popular series, “Under the Dome,” still films in Wilmington. For now. But a state legislature bent on curbing incentives has so severely cut North Carolina’s tax credits and rebates program for movies and TV that the state is bleeding movie jobs.
From January through June of 2014, 40 film productions in the state totaled $268 million in economic impact; over the same period in 2015, only 13 productions generated $70 million.
Before lawmakers allowed it to expire in 2014, the old incentives program rebated 25 percent of the money film productions spent in the state on designated expenses, or up to $20 million per film. Even so, the state cleared $58.3 million in tax revenue from 2007 to 2012.
Local businesses also benefited. Since 2004, seven feature films have spent $26.5 million in Guilford County.
The new incentives program, a grant fund, pays from a total pot of only $10 million and will pay no one film more than $5 million.
Why even bother? It’s not that the process didn’t need tweaking. But not hacking it to the point where it’s irrelevant.
Meanwhile, the Republican governor in Georgia, which offers a 30 percent film tax credit, is smiling all the way to the bank. Gov. Nathan Deal announced last week that 248 movie and TV productions in Georgia over the last fiscal year spent more than $1.7 billion and generated more than $6 billion in economic impact.
To meet worker demand, the University of Georgia system and the state’s technical colleges have partnered to create the Georgia Film Academy. Tyler Perry, “The Walking Dead,” “X-Men: First Class,” bickering “Housewives.”
The state has become so prolific that it’s branding itself with a peach logo at the end of each production’s credits.
The movie “Ant-Man,” which opens Friday, by itself employed 3,579, filled 22,413 hotel rooms and spent more than $106 million in Georgia.
Back in North Carolina, we’re still swatting ideological flies. And making peanuts.
Greensboro News & Record