As Detroit Woos Hollywood, Opposition Mounts

Clint Eastwood, Bee Vang i i

hide captionThe producers behind Gran Torino, starring Clint Eastwood (left) and Bee Vang, were lured to Michigan thanks to nearly $100 million in tax credits the state first offered in 2008.

Anthony Michael Rivetti/Warner Bros. Pictures
Clint Eastwood, Bee Vang

The producers behind Gran Torino, starring Clint Eastwood (left) and Bee Vang, were lured to Michigan thanks to nearly $100 million in tax credits the state first offered in 2008.

Anthony Michael Rivetti/Warner Bros. Pictures

For two decades, states from North Carolina to New Mexico have introduced tax breaks to lure movie and TV shoots away from Hollywood.

In the last few years, Michigan has joined the effort. The movie that turned Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano into a movie buff is Clint Eastwood's Gran Torino, whichwas shot in Detroit and other parts of Wayne County.

The movie was one of the first that took advantage of the nearly $100 million in tax credits the state of Michigan began offering moviemakers in 2008.

Since then there have been more than 100 more, plus TV shows like the critically acclaimed cop series Detroit 1-8-7, which stars Michael Imperioli of Sopranos fame.

"When the productions come in, there are a number of small businesses that really benefit," Ficano says. "There are caterers, engineers and props. It's probably thousands of jobs and it's grown every year."

He says the state has put together $100 million in tax incentive and rebates, which has yielded $648 million in production company spending in the state.

"It not only has an economic impact, it also has an image impact," Ficano says. He hopes people who see Detroit on screen get a new look at Wayne County and the rest of the state.

Others disagree about the benefits of helping Hollywood come to Michigan.

"How many people are going to visit Flint because Will Ferrell made Semi-Pro there?" asks Michael LaFaive of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. He's an advocate for rolling back Michigan's incentives for production companies. "What politicians and others are doing is buying good PR, but that's more symbolism than substance."

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder i i

hide captionDuring Wednesday's state-of-the-state speech, Gov. Rick Snyder proposed a flat business tax, which would end film and TV production tax breaks in Michigan.

Al Goldis/AP
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder

During Wednesday's state-of-the-state speech, Gov. Rick Snyder proposed a flat business tax, which would end film and TV production tax breaks in Michigan.

Al Goldis/AP

LaFaive has found some support for his position from Michigan's new Republican governor, Rick Snyder. During Wednesday's state-of-the-state address Snyder proposed a flat state business tax for all businesses, not special help for film and TV production.

In this era of state budget shortfalls nationwide, Michigan is just one state where lawmakers are wondering if a Hollywood blockbuster is worth the money.

No matter what the tax incentives, keep an eye out for movies that have been filmed in Michigan and are coming to a theater near you, including A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas, shot in Detroit.

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