California Sets $50 Million in Aid for Theaters With Possible $330 Million for Film + TV

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California has a $75.7 billion surplus and it is spending it on the arts. On May 12, California Governor Gavin Newsom approved a one-time $50 million subsidy for the state’s small theaters. On May 11, the California legislature proposed a $330 million allocation to the state’s film and television industry, with $180 million in tax credits and $150 million for soundstage construction; it has passed both legislative houses and Newsom is expected to sign it.

The $50 million theatrical subsidy is available for theaters with fewer than 99 seats and who were forced to shut down because of the pandemic. It was championed by Actors’ Equity Association and the California IATSE Council.

“This funding will make it possible for live arts employers to reopen, which will put Californians back to work and drive more economic activity throughout the California economy,” said both unions in a joint statement.

That’s not all. Back in May, Newsom proposed a one-time boost in the tax credits given to film and television productions, increasing the credits from $330 million to $360 million. Now the California legislature has proposed an increase from Newsom’s proposal: $180 million in additional tax credits and $150 million in tax credits just for new soundstage construction. 

“I’m very excited,” said California Sen. Anthony Portantino to Variety. “If we build more capacity, that leads to more productions and more jobs.” Portantino cosponsored the new measure alongside assembly members Wendy Carrillo and Autumn Burke. 

In order to qualify for the sound stages tax credit, construction on a production needs to ​​cost at least $25 million and the maximum credit awarded will be $12 million. And producers will need to submit a diversity workplan to the state, which “shall include goals that are broadly reflective of California’s population, in terms of race and gender.”

The additional general film and television tax credits will be distributed by the California Film Commission until 2023. The soundstage tax credit will be available for 10 years, or until the funding runs out, which Portantino expects will happen in about three years.

California’s $330 million tax credit program was introduced in 2014, under then-governor Jerry Brown. It tripled the $100-million allotment that the film and television industry was receiving at the time. To date, the California Film Commission has distributed $2.4 billion in tax credits, and has helped bring production back to California; 26 television series have relocated to the Golden State.