And Hollywood is pushing back
In the last three months, four of Hollywood’s 12 most sought-after tax havens for film and TV production have passed laws significantly restricting access to abortions or nearly banning them altogether — forcing many major Hollywood studios and production companies to reconsider upcoming shoots.
Georgia, Louisiana, Alabama and Ohio are among the 12 states that provide the best tax incentives to film and TV productions that shoot in the state, according to Film Production Capital, a Louisiana-based brokerage and consulting film that specializes in state tax incentives for film, TV and animation projects. In the last three months, all four have passed some form of anti-abortion law as a conservative wave sweeps state legislatures for a potential legal challenge that would get a more right-wing Supreme Court to reconsider the four-decade-old Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion nationwide.
In addition, two more of the top 12 tax-friendly states have anti-abortion legislation on the books or are actively considering new bills. New Mexico has a currently unenforceable law criminalizing abortion that predates Roe v. Wade but is still on the books, while South Carolina’s house recently passed a “heartbeat” bill that would ban most abortions if a fetal heartbeat can be detected; the bill awaits approval in the state’s senate.
This week, the wave of anti-abortion legislation prompted most of the major Hollywood media conglomerates to threaten to pull future film and TV production from states that have passed laws restricting abortion — should those laws go into effect. All of the new anti-abortion legislation is facing challenges in the courts.
“I rather doubt we will [stay],” Disney CEO Bob Iger said in a Reuters interview on Wednesday of his company’s robust production slate in Georgia in particular. “I think many people who work for us will not want to work there, and we will have to heed their wishes in that regard. Right now we are watching it very carefully.”
These declarations carry significant weight. Studios like Disney receive valuable tax breaks for filming in these states, and their business is often a boon to the states’ economy as well. Disney’s Marvel Studios has shot most of its recent productions, including “Avengers: Endgame,” at Atlanta’s Pinewood Studios.
Netflix recently bought ABQ Studios in New Mexico and plans to bring $1 billion in production to New Mexico over the next 10 years, in part due to the state’s beneficial tax incentives.
Georgia and Louisiana are two of the three best states for Hollywood tax incentives, according to Film Production Capital. The firm rates the tax incentive programs of Georgia, Louisiana and Massachusetts as five-star programs.
For its 2018 fiscal year, which began July 1, 2017 and ended June 30, 2018, the state of Georgia reported it received $2.7 billion in direct spending in the state from a record 455 film and TV productions that shot in the state. And Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, a Republican who signed his state’s “heartbeat” bill, said the productions generated a total economic impact of $9.5 billion, led by productions ranging from “Avengers: Endgame” to AMC’s “The Walking Dead.”
In order for productions to receive an up to 30% tax credit, Georgia requires productions to spend at least $500,000 in the state.
Louisiana reported $63.2 million in state taxes from film and TV productions in 2017, though taxpayers saw a less than 25 cents return on the dollar for the tax program, according to the Baton Rouge publication The Advocate. The state, however, expects the 17 productions currently shooting in the state to spend $300 million.
While new anti-abortion laws are putting Hollywood on a collision course with states where the film and TV industry have done business for years, there are other tax-friendly options.
Massachusetts, which has a five-star rating from Film Production Capital, is considering a bill that would actually expand access to abortions. Connecticut, Hawaii and Rhode Island, all of which are among the top 12 film tax incentive states, are either working to strengthen abortion protections or have stepped forward as advocates.