It speaks well of the coastal North Carolina film crews and the perseverance of those working to keep North Carolina’s film industry strong that CBS’ “Under the Dome” has announced that it will remain in Wilmington for the upcoming season.
The decision is particularly good news because it comes despite a drastic change in the state’s film incentive program.
The summer series wasn’t a shoo-in for renewal, but the same day CBS announced that “Dome” would return next year, the network called the president of EUE Screen Gems Studio to let him know it was staying put.
As heartening as that news is, the decision should not be taken as proof that the state won’t suffer from the General Assembly’s action converting the film tax credits into a much smaller grant program. In addition to incentives, producers have to consider the cost of moving an entire show to a new location. New projects will have the same start-up costs regardless of location, notes Johnny Griffin, who heads the Wilmington Regional Film Commission, so they are much more likely to depend at least in part on what individual states are willing to offer.
Executives and others working in the industry have warned that North Carolina will lose business to Georgia, Louisiana and other states that now have a much more generous incentives fund. This past summer, “Banshee,” the Cinemax series that had been filming in Charlotte, announced that it was leaving for Baton Rouge, La., because of changes to the incentives program.
The decision dealt a $40 million blow to the local economy there. At the same time, film officials said that, for the same reason, the state had recently lost out on at least four other shows that were considering Charlotte as a location.
Whereas the state paid more than $60 million in tax credits on more than $244 million in spending in 2013, the grant will cap the total payout at $10 million and limit individual projects to a maximum grant of $5 million. The program is only approved through June 2015.
“Dome” will take half that, leaving just $5 million to lure new projects and sustain existing ones.
There is a chance that lawmakers, in their long legislative session set to begin in January, will resurrect previous efforts to modify the tax credit program, which expires at the end of the year. The expanded tax credits have, over the past four years, revived a state film industry that had softened as competition from other states increased.
There’s still time.
Halifax Media Group