Money and movie stars

By AL DIAMON  |  February 20, 2014

“Policymakers think [tax rebates for films] are a little bit sexy, and they can be massaged as a tax cut,” Scott Drenkard of the Tax Foundation told USA Today earlier this year. “But it doesn’t comport with the economic evidence that these tax credits in particular don’t have really tangible benefits to them.”

The Legislature, faced with a budget deficit estimated at $70 million, has taken a hard look at these figures and decided to do the only sensible thing: Seriously consider spending more on film incentives. After learning that a sound stage in South Portland (occupying a publicly owned building for a ridiculously low rent) was closing because of lack of business, lawmakers began pushing a bill to increase the state’s tax rebates for film production to 25 percent, which is in line with nearby states that can afford to lose even more money investing in the movies.

Not all nearby states, though. Connecticut, which had a rebate program roughly comparable to Maine’s, has suspended it for two years because of budget constraints. This means there may never be another remake of Cannonball Run or The Stepford Wives, let alone an updating of Bikini Bloodbath.

In Maine, though, the future beckons. Once those giveaways are increased, it’s only a matter of time before some TV network comes begging for taxpayer money to start production of a series called The Other Portlandia, and the movie tycoons ask us to underwrite Uncle Tom’s Condo.

Maybe we could even steal a remake of The Ice Storm away from Connecticut.

That would be one kind of cool.

“You fool,” said Sweet Dick Willie in Do The Right Thing, “you’re 30 cents away from having a quarter.” Email your two cents worth to me ataldiamon@herniahill.net.

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