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'Batman v Superman' v taxpayer subsidies

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Author Topic: 'Batman v Superman' v taxpayer subsidies  (Read 487 times)
Psalm 51:17
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« on: March 26, 2016, 06:56:12 pm »

So now our tax dollars go to help fund these Hellywood movies?

'Batman v Superman' v taxpayer subsidies

Bam! Pow! Kaboom!

Those are the sounds of the hits “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” is taking in its initial reviews. One noteworthy example of the genre called it a “loud, droning, incoherent, and bonkers deadly serious film.” (This will be a spoilers-free post, by the way, since I haven’t seen the flick and probably won’t.)

Warner Bros. has been banking on “Batman v Superman” to kickstart its DC Comics franchise, an effort to combat Disney’s super successful series of movies based on Marvel Comics. If it tanks – and with a $400 million budget, it could make a lot of money and still tank – the studio will have some serious explaining to do.

But someone else has already come out on the short end of the silver screen superhero smackdown: taxpayers.

Michigan paid $35 million to incentivize the film’s production in the Wolverine State, after it already paid for the privilege of hosting “Red Dawn,” the films in the “Transformers” franchise and, somewhat ironically, Michael Moore’s “Capitalism: A Love Story,” among other movies. In fact, Michigan has been a major player in the film subsidy game, spending about half a billion dollars overall to draw productions into its embrace.

There are lots of reasons for why subsidizing movie and TV production is crummy policy, as I’ve outlined here, here, here and here. The programs rarely recoup the money spent on them, never mind generating an actual return; the jobs they create, where they exist at all, are usually temporary, often go to out-of-towners and cost an outrageous amount per position.

And, of course, there’s the small matter of spending taxpayer money to subsidize a humongous movie production house and its billion dollar profits. A plucky underdog, Warner Bros. is not.

Michigan is actually pretty instructive as to the folly of the film subsidy scam. According to a 2010 report by David Zin, chief economist of the state’s Senate Fiscal Agency, “As is true for most tax incentives, the film incentives represent lost revenue and do not generate sufficient private sector activity to offset their costs completely.” He pegs the cost per job created of Michigan’s program at up to $193,333, depending on how you count. Much of the money spent on the program leaked out of the state – which makes sense when dealing with huge, international studios – and had no economic impact whatsoever.

As the Makinac Center, a conservative think tank based in Michigan, has noted, between the film subsidy program’s inception in 2008 and 2014, the state actually lost film jobs. In 2013, there were zero full-time jobs created in the film industry there. Not a one. That’s some serious job Kryptonite.

But it’s not only conservatives who abhor film subsidies. The left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found that “Like a Hollywood fantasy, claims that tax subsidies for film and TV productions … are cost-effective tools of job and income creation are more fiction than fact.”

And they open states up to being economically blackmailed. Just look at what HBO's “House of Cards" and “Veep” did to Maryland, constantly threatening to leave if lawmakers didn't cough up more and bigger subsidy packages. Eventually, “Veep” did up and depart for California, leaving no permanent economic development behind. Every dollar that went into the program was one less dollar dedicated to education, public health, libraries or any of the myriad other public goods for which government is responsible.

Michigan’s story, though, is one that actually does have a happy ending, as last July, Republican Gov. Rick Snyder signed a bill ending the state’s film incentive program. Now if only some of the three dozen or so other states with similar programs could find the wherewithal to do the same, they’d be real heroes to their taxpaying citizens.
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