Senate bill could change The Ohio Motion Picture Tax Credit, bring more money to state’s economy

CLEVELAND – A bill in the Ohio Senate would change The Ohio Motion Picture Tax Credit, aiming to bring more film and theatrical productions to the state.

From Hollywood blockbusters like Captain America to smaller productions, the film industry has brought tens of millions of dollars to Northeast Ohio.

“This is not about getting movie stars here,” said Greater Cleveland Film Commission President and CEO Ivan Schwarz. “This is about jobs and bringing economic development to Cleveland.”

Shwarz said Cleveland and Ohio are losing tens of millions of dollars in business to other states.

“We have a lot of projects that want to film here, and we keep telling them, ‘I'm sorry, we're out of money, we don't have the funds right now.’ And that's not a great way to do business,” Shwarz said. “If we don't have an incentive and we don't have an incentive program that works, they will go to other states.”

Senate Bill 37 would make changes to the state’s $40 million incentive program. Under the program, productions receive reimbursement for up to 30% of money spent in the state.

Bill sponsor Sen. Kirk Schuring (R-Canton) said the changes would make the program more efficient.

“The motion picture industry is an economic growth sector for Ohio,” he said. “We think that we need to provide even more incentives to bring in more motion picture and Broadway theatrical productions.”

The changes include ranking projects for approval based on economic impact in Ohio. The tax credit would be distributed every six months instead of once per year and production would be required to begin within 90 days of approval.

Schuring said that will unclog the incentive pipeline.

Under the current system, he said there are about 20 projects dating back to 2016 that were approved for incentive money but have not been produced.

“We're going to put more front-end scrutiny on whether or not the project is approved,” Schuring said.

S.B. 37 also expands the credit to certain theatrical productions, including pre-broadway, pre-tour and long-term plays and musicals that run for at least five weeks.

“They want to do a long-term production with a tax credit where they can keep plays like Hamilton in Cleveland for months and months and months and maybe over a year,” Schuring said.

The bill has been referred to the Senate Ways and Means committee.  Schuring said he expects it will go before the full Senate soon.

Schwarz said increased incentives will accommodate more mid-level production that makes a big economic impact. He said the bill is a first step and he is hoping the state will increase the incentive from $40 million to $100 million.

“We want that money spent here,” Schwarz said. “They're going to spend it somewhere, and they're going to spend it where they have an incentive.”

Click here to read S.B. 37 in its entirety.

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