Monday, February 21, 2011

Snyder Budget Already Costing Jobs: "The Avengers" Film Pulls Out of Michigan

Say goodbye, indeed. The movie people aren't waiting around to see what our politicians are going to do next with the film credits; they are shutting down productions immediately. "The Avengers" would have been a major money-maker and job-creator for Michigan this year, but thanks to Governor Snyder's budget proposal - they are already gone.

"The Avengers" -- a big-budget Marvel superhero film featuring Iron Man, Captain America, the Hulk and others that was to be partially shot here this summer -- has already decided it won't be filming in the state, several people with connections to the film told the Free Press.

The "Avengers" story echoes the buzz spreading through the local film industry that projects wanting to come here are either holding off on their plans or changing their locations to another state.

Anxiety, uncertainty and anger are building in the metro Detroit film community over Snyder's budget plan, which essentially would eliminate the current film tax incentive and instead call for $25 million in each of the next two years for future movie projects.

The Avengers” decision is an early – and high-profile – example of incentive supporters’ fears becoming reality.

The Freep story goes on to tell of a scout who was lining up locations to shoot the movie when he got the call that the plug had been pulled - locations that would have received a lot of money for their services.

The departure of the "The Avengers" project means a loss to more businesses than those involved with on-set duties.

"We were currently in negotiations to work with them at some point during their stay," said Scott Stinebaugh, director of sales and marketing for the Westin Book Cadillac.

The film industry in general represented more than $1 million to the Book Cadillac in 2010, Stinebaugh said.

If those opportunities go away, "it will be a devastating blow not just to us, but to all of the metropolitan Detroit hospitality community," he said.

The Freep has also published a study today from accounting firm Ernst & Young that gives a better picture of how the incentives bring money to Michigan, claiming that for every $1 spent on credits, $6 is returned to the state in economic activity. While critics of the industry will still point to the Senate Fiscal Agency study (that the SFA itself admitted was incomplete), this one takes in account some of those items the other missed.

• Production companies spent $532 million in the state in 2009 and 2010. Of that amount, nearly 60%, or $310.5 million, impacted Michigan's economy.

• Eighty percent of the 4,656 indirect jobs that the movie business has created in Michigan have occurred in five industries: food services, business services, rentals and repairs, personal services and retail.

• The net cost of the tax credits awarded during 2009 and 2010 totaled $137 million. Taxes and fees generated from movie activity, plus reduced unemployment benefits because the filming creates jobs, offset the state's costs, the study says. According to the Michigan Film Office, the state has awarded $304 million in film tax credits since April 2008 and has paid out $96 million so far.

• Film productions paid Michigan residents $42.8 million in wages and salaries in 2009 and $66.9 million in 2010. That equates to an average annual salary of about $53,700 per full-time equivalent employee.

• The average film production in Michigan lasted 90 days in 2009 and 89 days in 2010.

And we still haven't even talked about the intangibles of keeping the young and creative class here, or things like "movie tourism", which Republican Sen. Rick Jones was quick to point out when he took a stand for the credits right before the hammer came down. A new "Batman" movie was looking at locations in his district at the time.

For more fun, go read Mitch Albom's column yesterday about how he, too, was mislead by Snyder about what he was told concerning the incentives and the budget. Snyder's people wanted to dismiss Jeff Daniels' claims about the same issue; are they going to call Mitch a liar too?

I know we aren't supposed to use the term "job killer" anymore, but if the shoe obviously fits...