‘House of Cards,’ ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’ and tax credits


Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright on “House of Cards.” (Netflix/Nathaniel E. Bell/AP)

“House of Cards” — the Netflix series that has lots of buzz and may or may not be a hit show (we actually have no idea because Netflix refuses to release any ratings) — filmed its first two seasons in Maryland, but now it could be moving after state lawmakers failed to approve increased funding to keep the production in the state.

My colleagues Jenna Johnson and John Wagner have much more here about the debate and why the legislation didn’t pass.

But now seems like a good time to revisit this post about the massive business of tax incentives that surrounds many of your favorite movies and television shows. “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” which has earned more than $300 million worldwide, is the No. 1 movie in the country right now. It is largely set in Washington, but while it filmed some scenes in D.C. (including the opening sequence on the Mall), it also shot a number of Washington-set scenes in Cleveland (shutting down a busy roadway, among other streets, which upset some people in the area). Marvel was awarded a $9.5 million tax credit from Ohio for “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” before filming began.

Ohio is an attractive place for productions like the “Captain America” sequel (as well as its franchise predecessor, “The Avengers”) because it has a hefty tax incentive program for movies, offering up to a 35 percent credit for productions that film there. That’s at the higher end of tax credits offered to productions, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, which says 45 states and Puerto Rico offer such incentives. The overall incentives could total $1.5 billion each year across the entire film industry.

States offer this kind of money because they say they’re getting money back. Georgia’s incentives were worth $800 million dollars to the state’s annual gross product, one study found; another looking at California said every tax credit dollar issued there was worth $19.12 in economic output. The indirect impact of film productions can be sizable, as people who work on movies or TV shows will spend money at grocery stores, restaurants and other places in the state where they film, a Louisiana study noted. But in North Carolina, where film incentives are expiring at the end of the year, there’s an ongoing debate over just how much the state benefits from hosting productions like “Iron Man 3″ and “Homeland.”

It’s unclear what happens next with “House of Cards,” which has delayed the start of production on its third season. Maryland’s incentive program will still get $15 million. Media Rights Capital, the California-based production company behind “Cards,” threatened earlier this year to leave the state if it doesn’t receive additional money in tax credits, and the show’s lobbyist said after the legislation failed that lawmakers didn’t realize “the message that it sends to the film industry.” The series has received $26.6 million in tax credits so far.

 

Mark Berman is a reporter on the National staff. He anchors Post Nation, a destination for breaking news and developing stories from around the country.
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