Box Office 

A state report says freebies to film companies bring Hollywood home.

State officials have given film companies $69.1 million in reimbursements or rebates for 68 production projects in Tennessee since 2007, according to a recent report, a move that has yielded $73.2 million in new taxes.

The Tennessee Entertainment Commission's (TEC) February report said the "production industry continues to play a key role in the Tennessee economy." Incentives have helped that sector grow, the report said, and the motion picture and video industry is set to grow in the state by 41 percent over the next five years.

The sector employs 6,016 people in Tennessee, ranking the state sixth among all states in overall employment in the film-production sector. The film sector has added 2,400 new jobs in the state over the last five years. In that time, the sector as a whole here grew by 135 percent.

click to enlarge Cast of the Memphis-shot Sun Records. - MEMPHIS AND SHELBY COUNTY FILM AND TELEVISION COMMISSION
  • Memphis and Shelby COunty Film and Television Commission
  • Cast of the Memphis-shot Sun Records.

Most of the state's film jobs (4,441) are in Nashville, the report said. Memphis is not mentioned in the TEC report.

The productions generate spin-off revenue, too. Over the last nine years, production projects purchased $171.9 million in goods and services from about 10,400 Tennessee vendors.

The report estimates $419.5 million in new incomes were generated for Tennessee workers from those 68 incentivized projects. In total, incentivized film projects here yielded $655.6 million in total economic output for the state since 2007, according to the report. The report did not break down figures by regions or cities.

In January, MovieMaker magazine ranked Memphis (for the sixth year in a row) in the top 20 places to shoot in the country. Emmy and Grammy-winning writer and moviemaker Robert Gordon told the magazine that the 1990s-era John Grisham films laid down the tracks for the movie industry here.

"As a location, you can find streets to match most any era, and most any condition," Gordon told the magazine. "Also, the crews are skilled, eager, and flexible. People I've worked with [on non-union shoots] are ready to do what's needed, even if it means duties not normally assigned. They're innovative and ready to try, and if you treat people right, they'll go the extra mile, delivering you images you'd never have imagined."

Companies shot 87 productions here last year, according to the Memphis and Shelby County Film and Television Commission's annual report. These shoots created 843 jobs and spent more than $6.4 million. Projects included the Discovery Channel's Street Outlaws and Tom Shadyac's feature film, Brian Banks.

Tennessee offers production companies a 25 percent cash refund on certain costs. Wages for in-state crew qualify for the rebate, for example, while wages for out-of-state workers don't. But not all projects are approved, and the approval process (run by the TEC) isn't objective.

"Tennessee's state production incentive program has limited funding and therefore is not 'first come, first served,'" according to the commission's website. "Projects are approved based on merit and the 'best interests' of the state."

The commission offers film companies discounts on Memphis Police Department rates and hotel rates, according to the website.

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