While the city of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania are generally no strangers to the film and television industry, recent years have seen a massive increase in the visibility of production in the region.
This is thanks, in no small part, to the dedication of Gov. Tom Corbett (and Gov. Ed Rendell before him) and the General Assembly to the Pennsylvania Film Tax Credit Program. Support for the program ensures that filmmakers and television producers will continue to produce films and television shows in Western Pennsylvania, and that Pittsburgh and the entire commonwealth will continue to remain competitive in attracting major films and television shows to the region for years to come.
The governor's inclusion of a $60 million appropriation for the film tax credit in his 2012-13 budget proposal signals his intention to renew support for this important program, and the General Assembly must follow Mr. Corbett's lead and include it in the final budget.
While the film tax credit does offer visible public relations benefits -- major motion pictures such as "Unstoppable," "Love and Other Drugs," "The Next Three Days" and "One Shot" have been filmed in the region in recent years -- the program offers tangible benefits as well and has been responsible for economic growth in the region. Since the program's inception, nearly $242.5 million in state tax credits have been approved and/or awarded to film production companies, which has resulted in estimated total economic activity of $1.8 billion and the creation and sustaining of almost 14,500 jobs statewide.
On the local level, the impact has been equally as impressive. The city saw the creation of nearly 3,000 jobs attributable to films produced by companies that applied for and were approved for state tax credits for film production completed in fiscal year 2010-11 alone. Film and television production has also led to financial incentives and benefits for both individuals and businesses in the region. Pittsburgh and its countryside saw estimated total sales of more than $452 million related to films produced and completed in the region in fiscal 2010-11, and those same films resulted in the commonwealth and its subdivisions receiving more than $14.7 million in state and local taxes. This estimated local economic impact of over $450 million came at a cost to the commonwealth of only $57.7 million dollars in tax credits.
The film tax credit program also ensures the continued viability of Pittsburgh's 31st Street Studios, which we recently purchased. In addition to striving to be an industry leader in production services, studio development and management, 31st Street Studios has the facilities and capabilities necessary to service the entertainment industry and film and television projects of all sizes.
Currently, 31st Street estimates that it will employ between 50 and 100 individuals full time, in addition to more than 500 employees on a contractual basis. Although 31st Street Studios is located in the heart of the Strip District, it is within a 45-minute drive of the landscapes, architecture and greenspace that makes the city and region an attractive destination for the film and television industries.
Large businesses, such as 31st Street Studios, are not the only local entities that benefit from the film tax credit. The Studio Mechanics Local 489, the local chapter of the International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees, benefits immensely from film and television production in the region. In fact, Local 489 has reported that its membership more than doubled between 2006 and 2010, in conjunction with the inception of the tax credit program.
While detractors often argue that films and television shows would come to Western Pennsylvania with or without the tax credit, the numbers indicate that this simply isn't true. For example, the industry's economic impact on the region from film and television production for the years 2007 through 2010 was greater than in the 15-year period of 1990-2005. The Pittsburgh Film Office has reported that 40 feature film and television productions were completed in the region between 2006 and 2010, which is more than the number for the entire period of 1993-2005.
Finally, more and more states are implementing programs similar to Pennsylvania's, meaning that the continued viability and success of the film industry here hinges on the commonwealth's continued dedication to the film tax credit program.
As Pittsburgh and the region emerge from a tough economic period, the film tax credit has been instrumental in ensuring continued growth in the area. The program creates jobs, brings financial benefits to the region's businesses and ensures that Western Pennsylvania will remain an integral part of the film and television industry for years to come.
Christopher Breakwell is CEO of 31st Street Studios in Pittsburgh's Strip District.