The producers of Black Mass and the Motion Picture Association of America used some very selective Hollywood editing this week to plug the Massachusetts film tax credit.
With the tax credit under fire from members of the state Senate and the Baker administration, the Motion Picture Association issued a press release on Tuesday saying the movie pumped nearly $20 million into the Massachusetts economy during its 103 days of filming in 2014. The press release, which was picked up by Masslive and a handful of other news outlets, hailed the economic benefits of movies shot on location in Massachusetts.
“As this movie hits theaters, it’s important to remember how this production and the entire statewide film industry make it possible for thousands of Massachusetts residents to earn their livelihoods and support their families,” said Chris O’Donnell, business manager for Local 481 of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, in the press release. The quote was also used in the Masslive story.
But what the press release failed to point out is that the $20 million was only a fraction of the cost of the movie. Variety estimates the total cost was $53 million; others speculate the cost was higher, with star Johnny Depp collecting $20 million himself.
Here’s why the overall cost numbers are important.The state’s film tax credit basically reimburses movie producers 25 percent of whatever they spend in Massachusetts. If the total cost was $53 million, that means Massachusetts taxpayers forked over about $13 million to generate $20 million in local spending. Not a great return.
The Motion Picture Association documented in great detail all of the local spending. There was $8.5 million for 662 local cast and crew members, or an average of $12,840 a person. The production also spent $3.8 million on “miscellaneous rentals and purchases;” $2.7 million on location fees; $1.4 million on hotel rooms and housing; $823,000 on car rentals (an average of $7,990 a day); $557,000 on wardrobe purchases; $485,000 on lumber and construction supplies; $470,000 on dry cleaning, gas, and office expenses; $455,000 on security; and $453,000 on food.
But the association said it didn’t know the total cost of the movie, or what was paid to director Scott Cooper and lead actors Depp, Benedict Cumberbatch, Dakota Johnson, and Joel Edgerton. Salaries paid to directors and actors are covered by the state’s film tax credit, but the state Revenue Department says most of that money flows out of state.
In 2012, the Revenue Department estimated film productions spent $315.8 million in Massachusetts and qualified for $78.9 million in film tax credits. Of the total spending, only $103.7 million, or 33 percent, went to Massachusetts residents and businesses.
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The Berkshire Eagle argues that UMass students are justifiably angry about tuition and fee increases.
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