Record year for TV, film production in Georgia: $4.4B in direct spending

But political headwinds might slow the state’s momentum
The Georgia economic development office touted $4.4 billion in direct TV and film production spending in Georgia for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2022, including sequels for "Black Panther," "Creed" and "Shazam!" PUBLICITY PHOTOS

Credit: PUBL

Credit: PUBL

The Georgia economic development office touted $4.4 billion in direct TV and film production spending in Georgia for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2022, including sequels for "Black Panther," "Creed" and "Shazam!" PUBLICITY PHOTOS

Georgia broke a record yet again in direct spending from TV and film producers in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2022, hitting $4.4 billion, according to the Georgia Department of Economic Development.

Companies ranging from Netflix to Amazon took advantage of the state’s very generous tax credit program, which dates back to 2008.

Some of the big productions that were in production during the fiscal year included “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” “Creed 3,” “Shazam! Fury of the Gods,” “Ozark” and “Cobra Kai.”

The state hosted 412 productions in total between July 1, 2021, and June 30, 2022: 32 feature films, 36 independent films, 269 television and episodic productions, 42 commercials, and 33 music videos. This is up from 366 productions in the prior fiscal year.

The state reopened quickly after the pandemic shutdown in the spring of 2020 and ended up having a record year for TV and film production in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2021, as studios raced to catch up on a massive backlog. Direct spending that fiscal year hit $4 billion. That trend continued into 2022 with another 10% boost in spending.

Gov. Brian Kemp, in a press release, touted the industry’s continued job creation. “In addition to providing production jobs that range across a variety of skills from accounting to carpentry to engineering and graphic design, productions are using local vendors, eating at Georgia restaurants, and staying in our hotels,” he said. “We’re proud to be training more Georgians to be decision-makers in film and television production, keeping their talents in our state, and we look forward to this industry’s continued success in the Peach State!”

That $4.4 billion in direct spending equates to about $1.3 billion in tax credits doled out to companies like Sony, Paramount and Universal. That represents about 4.3% of the entire budget for the state of Georgia and is the largest tax credit handout to a single industry in the state.

With streaming services fueling Hollywood’s record output in scripted programming, demand for soundstages in North America remained strong into 2022. This has led to a spate of new studios in development in Georgia as well as expansions of existing studios. Among the newcomers: Athena Studios in Athens, Electric Owl Studios in Stone Mountain and Assembly Studios in Doraville. United Talent Agency, one of the largest talent agencies in the world, also opened a full-service office earlier this year.

The industry is currently in transition as cable and broadcast networks scale back investments and billions pour into streaming content. Georgia is facing potential headwinds that could reduce the industry’s footprint if producers decide to opt out of the state or de-prioritize use of its soundstages over hot-button issues like gun rights, voting rights, LBGTQ+ rights and abortion rights.

With Georgia severely restricting abortion access after the Supreme Court in June overturned Roe v. Wade, about 1,000 Hollywood TV showrunners recently signed letters seeking protections from studios for employees seeking abortion services in states like Georgia.

Georgia remains the third biggest state for TV and film production behind only New York and California in part because its tax credit system is uncapped, which draws movies with big budgets. If a studio spends $100 million in Georgia for a film, it will receive $30 million in tax credits it can use on itself or sell to a third party. Both New York and California also offer tax credits, but they are more limited in scope.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom, in an industry trade publication last week, made a direct plea for studios to come back to California and avoid states like Georgia because he said the state’s values do not match that of California’s. Other states like New Jersey and North Carolina with more liberal abortion access are also trying to pressure studios to reduce their reliance on Georgia as a place to do business.

For now, demand for soundstages appears to be robust, based on the current slate of upcoming films and TVs arriving in Georgia in the coming weeks. But studios often plan months ― and sometimes years ― in advance and any impact the abortion bill passage will have on the state probably won’t appear until the fall.

Georgia in 2017 and 2018 attracted $2.7 billion in direct spending each fiscal year, with a slight jump to $2.9 billion in 2019 and a temporary drop to $2.2 billion in 2020 due to the pandemic.