Comic-Con, the geek event of the year, just wrapped up in San Diego. Not surprisingly, Marvel Studios and its stars were the big draws at the 2017 event.
I'm not a big fan of comic books and their spin-off products, but I did cross paths with some Comic-Con folks a few years ago on a tax-related trip to San Diego. And I admit this past weekend I clicked on a few stories and video clips, albeit to check out Thor, aka Chris Hemsworth. (Go ahead, judge me.)
But the growth of the super hero and fantasy world as a lucrative business venture means there's more of a tax reason to pay attention to Marvel and its brethren. Specifically, many such movies, including hoped-for blockbusters, are getting tax help.
California hands out movie tax breaks: "Captain Marvel," in which Academy Award winner Brie Larson will portray Carol Danvers and her titular superhero alter ego, is one of three big-budget films that have qualified for tax credits from California for filming in the state.
Ninety-two productions applied for the Golden State's tax credit in this third fiscal year that the state has operated under the tax breaks expanded version. Eight movies were approved for tax subsidies totaling almost $68 million.
California's new film credit rules allow productions with budgets of $75 million-plus to be part of the program. Major movies can receive up to a 20 percent tax credit for a production's first $100 million in qualified expenditures.
Under that more open application criteria, "Captain Marvel" was OK'ed for a conditional $20.8 million Golden State tax break. The movie, which also stars Oscar nominee Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury before his eyesight accident, is the first Marvel film primarily produced in California since 2014's "Captain America: The Winter Soldier."
The World War II action movie "Midway," underwritten by The Mark Gordon Company, was given $13.9 million.
And this cycle's largest tax break of $21.5 million went to Paramount's "Island Plaza." I need some help from film aficionados here. I can find nothing online about this project.
In addition to "Captain Marvel," "Island Plaza" and "Midway," the other five recipients of Golden State tax breaks this year are:
- $2.5 million for "Bird Box" from River Bend Productions, Inc.
- $2.5 million for "Cheney" (yes, as in former W veep with Christian Bale?!? in the title role; I can't wait to see that makeup!) from Annapurna Pictures
- $2.5 million for "Happytime Murders" (which has Sean "Spicey" Spicer doppelganger and comedic genius Melissa McCarthy involved) from STX Productions, LLC
- $2.5 million for "Peppermint" from Lakeshore Entertainment Group
- $1.42 million for "A Christmas Story: The Musical Live!" from Warner Horizon Television
Big movies, big state rewards…maybe: The three major studio movies awarded tax breaks this year bring to six the number of big-budget films that have been lured to California thanks to the revised tax credit, according to California Film Commission Executive Director Amy Lemisch.
"Such films are a primary target for the tax credit program because they can bring significant jobs and spending to regions across the state," Lemisch told Variety.
Opponents of the movie (and television and video game) tax credits disagree with Lemisch's assessment of the value of movie and TV productions. They contend that the short-term economic effects don't make up for the expenditure of public tax money on private projects.
That's why every year some states reconsider their movie-related tax breaks, often deciding to end them.
But California officials obviously think otherwise. Given Hollywood's history in growing the domestic film industry, I understand why the state has decided to expand its tax breaks.
We'll see if that continues when the state's economy, which is doing pretty well right now, stumbles.
You also might find these items of interest:
- Oscars, tax breaks and best tax-themed films
- Holy taxes, Batman! Taxes matter even on Batman Day
- 'Love & Taxes' funny on screen, but not filing in real life is no laughing matter