Massachusetts issued nearly $100 million in movie tax grants in 2019, the most in a decade

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Ryan Reynolds, in a scene from “Free Guy”.Alan Markfield/Associated Press

There are often movie tax credit claims pending when the state releases its annual Transparency Report, which means totals for each year — like those for 2019, which the state previously reported at 77 millions of dollars – change often. On Thursday, the state also released data showing it issued an additional $47.5 million in movie tax credits in 2020, though that number could rise as well.

Most of the credits issued so far from 2020 have gone to two projects: the Mark Wahlberg-directed film “Spenser Confidential,” which received $17.2 million, and the second season of “Castle Rock,” the Hulu series based on the Stephen King stories, which earned nearly $16.1 million. The drama ‘CODA’, which was filmed in Gloucester, among other communities, and won Best Picture at this year’s Oscars, received $2.2 million.

Emilia Jones stars in “CODA,” which was filmed on the Massachusetts North Shore.Courtesy of Apple

The new data comes less than a year after the Legislature voted to overhaul the movie tax credit program, including to make it permanent. The decision, supporters say, injected stability into Massachusetts’ growing industry and made the state — already among the top spenders on movie tax credits nationally — a more attractive destination for films and scripted series.

The Massachusetts Film Office has identified at least 33 projects that were filmed in Massachusetts in 2021, including the sequel to 2018’s “Blank Panther” and an adaptation of “Salem’s Lot.” This is compared to 17 in 2020 hampered by the pandemic and 28 the year before, according to the data the office maintains on its website.

“We suddenly accelerated the upcoming projects in Massachusetts,” said Ryan Cook, a property manager, who said he and his wife often discussed a possible move before buying their first home here last year. “We wouldn’t have done this if the tax incentive hadn’t become permanent. . . . We are going to see more work coming. Frankly, I’m having trouble finding people to fill the positions.

The decision to extend the program in perpetuity was not without controversy. Governor Charlie Baker, who repeatedly sought to kill or cut credit, argued it was an inefficient use of taxpayers’ money. A state commission agreed in 2021, finding that the movie tax credit program costs the state $100,000 per job created and concluding that it was “not the best use of money from the state”.

Since 2011, Massachusetts issued $618.7 million in grants through the program to more than 1,300 projects, including films, commercials and TV shows, according to analysis by The Globe of status data.

But proponents say the program has spurred the creation of hundreds, if not thousands, of jobs for local merchants while supporting businesses in ways that are not reflected in state data. The program also had a staunch supporter from Speaker of the House Ronald Mariano, a Quincy Democrat who saw a studio spring up in his own town, one of many sound stages that have been or are being built across the country. State.

“The economic benefits this program brings to Massachusetts are immense, creating local jobs, additional economic opportunities and award-winning films right here in the Commonwealth,” Mariano said in a statement Friday.

Speaker of the House Ron Mariano’s neighborhood includes a studio in Quincy.Sam Doran/Pool

Although the new state data includes some credits issued in 2020, it appears to largely cover films and series that were shot before the pandemic began. Other projects that have received taxpayers’ money include the film “I Care A Lot,” for which actor Rosamund Pike won a Golden Globe and earned more than $2.4 million in film credits. tax, and the television series “The Wrong Mans”, which received $1.3 million. but whose pilot has not been recovered by Showtime.

The tax credit given to “Castle Rock” in 2020 is the highest incentive given to a scripted series, surpassing the previous record of $13.8 million – which went to the same series for its first season. The show was the first episodic series to be filmed in Massachusetts in nearly three decades when production began in 2017 at New England Studios in Devens.

Gary Crossen, the studio’s general manager, said he and others have since considered adding four soundstages to the compound, but have yet to make a decision.

“We can’t be busier than we are,” Crossen said. “You can see industry-wide in this state, there are more features and more streaming series being filmed here. I would expect some modest increases [in tax credits issued] in the years to come. »

Launched in 2006, the state film tax program includes a 25% payroll credit for any project that spends more than $50,000 in Massachusetts. Under other changes passed by lawmakers last year, productions that spend more than 75% of their total budget in Massachusetts, or shoot more than 75% of the time in the state, are also eligible for a production credit and a sales tax exemption. The state had previously set a 50% threshold.

There is no annual cap on the credit, and it is transferable, allowing a production company to sell to insurance companies, corporations or even individuals.

From left, Leslie Jones, Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig and Kate McKinnon appeared in a scene from the movie “Ghostbusters.”hopper stone

The 2016 version of “Ghostbusters,” which received $26.7 million in movie tax credits, holds the record for the biggest grant awarded under the program, while another Reynolds project, the 2013’s “RIPD” earned $26.6 million.

Projects involving Wahlberg, a native of Dorchester, have also been consistently among the biggest recipients of taxpayer-funded aid. Projects which received the 10 highest tax credits in state history, he was involved in three: ‘Spenser Confidential’, the 2017 film ‘Daddy’s Home 2’, which received 17.9 million dollars, and “Pariots Day,” the 2016 film about the Boston Marathon bombings. , which raised $15.7 million.

Actor Mark Wahlberg, as a Boston police officer, prepares to film a scene from the movie ‘Patriots Day’, about the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, near the finish line in 2016.Reuters

Matt Stout can be contacted at matt.stout@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @mattpstout.

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