The upcoming film Bad Grandpa, part of the Jackass series, was filmed in Northeast Ohio.
I noticed a frame of the Veteran’s Memorial Bridge, a bridge I crossed frequently during my high school years on Cleveland’s West Side.
In an effort to win filming locations, Ohio offers the “Ohio Motion Picture Tax Credit” as an incentive, though many films use Cleveland as a backdrop for other cities like New York, Chicago, or Washington, rather than a feature. In other words, Ohioans are subsidizing Hollywood firms to turn Cleveland into New York.
So far as these incentives go, Ohio isn’t alone — over 75% of states offer some form of incentive.
According to the website of the Ohio Development Services Agency:
“The Ohio Motion Picture Tax Credit provides a refundable tax credit that equals 25 percent off in-state spend and non-resident wages and 35 percent in Ohio resident wages on eligible productions.”
It also specifies that “[e]ligible productions must spend a minimum of $300,000 in the State of Ohio”.
The Ohio Development Services Agency confirmed to me that, while “the production company has not yet sent in their final audit … the project was approved for a $1.5 million Motion Picture Tax Credit.” The production company projected that “47 percent was to be shot in Ohio.”
Motion Picture Tax Credits and other incentives for filming are popular among state legislators. The Tax Foundation observes:
“Forty-four states [in 2010] offer significant movie production incentives (MPIs), up from five states in 2002, and twenty-eight states offer film tax credits.”
While they are popular, they are not without controversy. The Economist called such incentives a “stupid trend.”
Since 2010, three states have dropped their motion picture incentives. Many others, including New Jersey — the epitome of states with silly policies, have suspended such programs.
The non-partisan Tax Foundation is skeptical of the value of incentives and credits for motion pictures:
“While broad-based tax competition often benefits consumers and spurs economic growth and development, industry-specific tax competition transfers wealth from the many to the few … Movie production incentives are costly and fail to live up to their promises.”
The report continues:
“Based on fanciful estimates of economic activity and tax revenue, states are investing in movie production projects with small returns and taking unnecessary risks with taxpayer dollars. In return, they attract mostly temporary jobs that are often transplanted from other states.”
“Furthermore, the competition among states transfers a large portion of potential gains to the movie industry, not to local businesses or state coffers. It is unlikely that movie production incentives generate wealth in the long run. Most fail even in the short run. Yet they remain popular.”
I’m in agreement. Scrap them.
But if you’re going to keep them, at least require that they say they’re in Cleveland in the film, so that you can pick movies that cast Cleveland in a positive light.
Here’s a screen grab from Google street view of the bridge seen in the movie.
The next frame cuts immediately to Charlotte, North Carolina. From the trailer, it appears most of the film is depicted in North Carolina. (Also, Cleveland’s tallest building one of Charlotte’s tallest were both designed by Cesar Pelli and look similar.) Other scenes were filmed in North Carolina.
You can watch the trailer here: