Hollywood spending tops $2 billion in Georgia, governor’s office says

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Georgia reached a new record in Hollywood spending in the past year thanks in no small part to summer blockbusters such as “Captain America: Civil War” and popular televisions series like “The Walking Dead.”

Gov. Nathan Deal’s office said Tuesday that total film spending in the state topped the $2 billion mark for the first time ever in the 2016 fiscal year that ended July 31. Total filming and other movie and television production expenditures were up nearly 19 percent compared to budget year 2015 and more than seven times the figure Hollywood spent in Georgia in 2008.

“Georgia’s film industry provides a significant impact on our state’s economy, employing thousands of Georgians while developing infrastructure and boosting small businesses,” Deal said in a news release. “The film industry has created a home in Georgia, and I am committed to retaining this relationship by constructing a strong, film-ready workforce that will continue to help the industry thrive.”

The governor's office said 245 television and film projects shot in Georgia in fiscal 2016, which is down by three total projects from 2015. Some cities are becoming popular film hubs — like Decatur, the set of "Goosebumps" with Jack Black and "The Blind Side" with Sandra Bullock.

Georgia’s generous tax credit system has helped make the state the No. 3 filming location in the U.S. behind California and New York. The state said the economic impact of Hollywood’s spending was more than $7 billion in the state this past fiscal year.

Production companies can earn tax credits up to 30 percent of what they spend in Georgia when they meet certain standards. That’s caused a stampede of production companies and the industries that service them — such as studio operators like EUE/Screen Gems and Pinewood Atlanta Studios — to Georgia.

Georgia’s tax credit program, meanwhile, has become the state’s single largest corporate perk. The program directed $925 million to production companies from 2009 to 2014, according to a study by Georgia State University.

The Georgia State study said there were about 4,200 direct film jobs in 2014, citing U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data, but industry estimates say Hollywood supports 24,000 Georgia jobs.

The incentives, however, remain controversial. Critics say the jobs created locally are often low paying and easily moved if the credits were to ever dry up.

Indeed, when Michigan folded its program, Hollywood disappeared. Southern rivals Louisiana and North Carolina capped the value of their programs in recent years and Hollywood responded by shifting work to Georgia and other states.

Still, developers see opportunities in Georgia. Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy and partners recently started a mixed-use development outside the Pinewood campus in Fayette County. And other studio projects remain in the pipeline.