Nevada’s Film Industry Does the Tax Incentive Tango

Reno won Tesla with some big-budget breaks. What does this mean for Nevada’s burgeoning film industry?


The hoopla that surrounded the $80 million statewide tax credit from the Nevada Film Office that began in January was immediately justified. Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2! Even if it’s an unnecessary sequel to a terrible movie and a commercial for Wynn Encore, it’s still a big-budget production that was filmed in Las Vegas, right? Right!

Nine months into the credit’s four-year term, things were moving slowly but steadily. But now, thanks to the Reno-bound Tesla Gigafactory, the film credit could drop to a mere $10 million. That $70 million difference would be diverted to help pay for the roughly $1.3 billion in tax incentives for the northern Nevada battery manufacturer.

The state Legislature met September 10—after press time—to decide the fate of the film incentive. Neither reps from the Governor’s Office of Economic Development nor Nevada Film Office Director Eric Priess were able to comment at press time on how the incentive would be structured under the new arrangement.

What it would do is hamstring a program just finding its legs. Only three productions other than Blart took advantage of the credit in its first year: the indies Lake Mead and the untitled Gerardo Naranjo project starring Dakota Fanning, both ticketed for 2015. The Nigel Lythgoe-produced In the Spotlight was ordered by CBS to be filmed at The Mirage in the spring, but still doesn’t appear on the network’s fall schedule. In all, of the $20 million in tax breaks for the first year, only about $5 million were claimed. Blart accounts for $4.4 million of that. The Segway budget is a killer.

But that’s to be expected, Preiss says, because of the long lead time on films. Under the old arrangement, the remaining $15 million was slated to roll over and be combined with the additional $20 million that would have activated in 2015.

“Our incentive is so new. You look at states like Louisiana, who’s No. 1 in production worldwide—they’ve had an incentive for about 13 years . Their infrastructure and program are firing on all cylinders. It takes a little bit of time,” he says. “These projects are in a development cycle of 1-2 years. A lot of the projects that may take advantage of it, they’ve already been planned a year in advance.”

But, that doesn’t mean this fall is going to be bereft of projects shooting here. More than two dozen productions filmed in August—notably, for fans of wrasslin’ ladies, E!’s Total Divas—with six projects locked in to shoot in the fall. That includes indie features Hammer of the Witches, Rude Awakening and Cy’s Crawlspace.

Preiss hinted he had at least two big-budget productions ready to sign on before the Gigafactory announcement came down. Which is really going to disappoint entertainment-starved factories huddling around the warm glow of their Tesla batteries come next year.

“We’ve talked to several production companies, and it sounds like we’re going to get some applications in September and October,” he said prior to the announcement. “The conversations we’ve had have been with a couple of producers who are talking about television series they would like to film in Las Vegas. Television series are a great thing for the state, because over a period of one season, they’ll be here longer.”

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