Colorado’s cinema incentive program takes a new lease of life

After years of falling behind surrounding states in film incentives, Colorado is back in the game when it comes to competing for film, television, and video game projects.

Before the pandemic, the legislature allocated only $ 750,000 per year to the state’s cinema incentive fund, forcing the Colorado Office of Economic Development to transfer money from other programs to prevent the fund from s ‘completely collapse and disband the production teams due to a lack of work.

Earlier this year, the Colorado legislature allocated an unprecedented $ 6 million to replenish the cinema incentive fund and the phone started ringing a lot more at the state film office, said Thursday. Kelly Baug, assistant state film commissioner at the Colorado Economic Development Commission. .

Although $ 6 million is a record amount for Colorado, the state still lags behind most of its neighbors. Regional cinema leader New Mexico is offering $ 130 million in incentives, Oklahoma $ 30 million, Utah $ 9.9 million and Wyoming $ 3 million. Some states offer a 30% discount on qualifying expenses, while Colorado offers a 20% discount.

A major argument against granting more movie incentives in the past is that the state has more urgent budget priorities and faces tighter tax restrictions. Other critics view movie incentives as an ever-increasing corporate subsidy that pits states against one another, while some conservatives disagree with content that is produced with taxpayer help.

But supporters argue that the incentive fund delivers a 31-to-1 return on investment and brings much-needed spending to rural areas, which are getting a new boost through public exposure being showcased. Providing a constant stream of incentives also allows production talent to take root in the state, which Colorado has struggled with.

“A lot of money is spent in rural areas, but most of the crews come from the Front Range,” said Donald Zuckerman, the state film commission. “The wages are all spent here in the Front Range, while the money for the filming goes to rural areas.”

Colorado saw a constant stream of movies and TV shows shot in the state, hundreds of them, until the incentives became a major source of funding, Baug said. Between 2007 and 2012, when the state launched its own fund, there were no major film projects in Colorado. After the state launched its cinema incentive fund, bigger films came back including “The Hateful 8”, “Furious 7”, “Our Souls at Night”, “Cop Car” and “Amateur”.

To receive a rebate, Colorado-based projects must spend at least $ 100,000, while out-of-state projects must spend $ 1 million or more. Projects must employ a majority of Colorado residents on their team and expenses must be verified.

On Thursday, the commission approved spending discounts for a live broadcast of the Ouray Ice Climbing competition next month, which will also be made into a documentary, and for video game producer Boulder. Since the $ 6 million was put into the fund at the start of the fiscal year, the commission has approved a dozen projects. Baug said several other requests were pending.

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