City premieres extra incentive for films

The City is looking for some more lights and cameras to create action in the local economy.

By lifting a cap in The City’s film rebate program, San Francisco could create more than 100 jobs in its ailing industry and sink an additional $24 million into the economy by next year, a city report says.

The report was commissioned after Supervisor Michele Alioto-Pier introduced legislation to lift the cap off the rebate film program.

The program currently in place, which set aside $1.8 million in rebate money for three years, allows productions that are filmed mostly in San Francisco to receive a rebate on fees and taxes paid to The City as long as the rebate doesn’t exceed the total amount of taxes paid. Alioto-Pier’s bill would allow a rebate for all of taxes and fees paid.

The City’s first-ever film rebate program was established in 2006 under legislation introduced by Alioto-Pier. Only one production hastaken a rebate and the industry continues to suffer as other states and foreign cities have lured productions by offering cost-saving incentives — as much as 30 percent.

The change would result in an average increase of a $175,000 rebate to a $325,000 rebate, said an economic impact report from the Controller’s Office. Production costs in San Francisco would be cut by 2.8 percent, not the 1.5 percent now.

Supervisor Sean Elsbernd, who supports the bill, noted during Thursday’s committee hearing on the bill that the current program could add $36,000 to The City’s operating budget while the change could result in a $90,000 loss.

Elsbernd said the benefits outweigh that cost.

With the change, the program could sink into the local economy $23.9 million more, for a total of $47.7 million, during the next 18 months, the report said. It would also create 127 more jobs, for a total of 254 jobs.

The full Board of Supervisors is scheduled to vote on the bill March 11.

Mayor Gavin Newsom’s film chief Stefanie Coyote is hopeful that slight changes to the rebate program can attract more productions.

“This will not get us ‘Spider-Man 4’ or ‘Transformers 3,’” Coyote said. But she said it would help lure more low-budget independent films, such as the biopic on Harvey Milk being filmed and expected to sink $11 million into the local economy.

“I believe we can be successful in enabling productions to come here,” she said.

The City’s film industry was booming in the 1990s, but then dramatically declined. Between 2000 and 2006 The City lost more than $123 million in local spending, more than $8 million in local and state tax dollars and nearly 2,000 jobs, according to a report released in October by the San Francisco Film Commission.

In 2007, total filming dollars spent in San Francisco was $23.5 million.

jsabatini@examiner.com

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