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Film officials shooting for bigger Pennsylvania tax credit

February 19. 2013 6:24PM
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PHILADELPHIA — The state could see a lot more lights, cameras, action and jobs if lawmakers expand the $60 million film tax credit, Pennsylvania film officials say.

Proof of Pennsylvania's popularity is on the big screen, they contend, pointing to the Philadelphia-based Silver Linings Playbook that opens in wide release Wednesday and the Pittsburgh-filmed Tom Cruise movie Jack Reacher landing in theaters next month.

Other major motion pictures are on the way, but film offices at both ends of the state say Pennsylvania could host even more productions if officials made an increased, multiyear commitment to the program.

We're losing the business and we're out of money. It's extremely frustrating, said Sharon Pinkenson, executive director of the Greater Philadelphia Film Office.

State officials estimate film and TV productions have injected $1.4 billion into the Pennsylvania economy since 2007, based on $300 million in tax credits.

The current incentive essentially offers a 25 percent tax credit to productions that spend 60 percent of their budget in Pennsylvania. Capped at $60 million, the program this year is helping to fund eight feature films, one documentary, eight TV episodes, a pair of TV series and one TV pilot.

The credit needs to be at least $100 million, said Pittsburgh Film Office director Dawn Keezer. Pennsylvania has two major production centers — Philadelphia and Pittsburgh — and attracts crews to rural areas like Emporium, where the Denzel Washington flick Unstoppable shot in 2010, she said.

People want to come to Pennsylvania to shoot, said Keezer. We just need the support to keep the playing field competitive.

Opponents of film credits have questioned whether they have appreciable long-term impact. Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi said such opposition has lessened in recent years as state reports on the program have become more transparent, listing project names, spending amounts and economic impact.

Still, he cautioned that appropriations are likely to remain tight in the coming years.

We need to make sure we meet our basic needs, Pileggi said.

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