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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, February 3, 2006

TV, film projects in Islands down last year

By Sean Hao
Advertiser Staff Writer

Cast and crew of the ABC series "Lost" work on a scene in Manoa. Hawai'i lost an estimated 1,000 entertainment-industry jobs last year.

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Hawai'i kept "Lost," but lost "Hawaii" and "North Shore," which helped drive down television and film production spending statewide by nearly 40 percent, to an estimated $100 million last year.

At the same time, several movie projects bypassed Hawai'i in favor of other locales that offered larger and simpler tax incentives, state film commissioner Donne Dawson told lawmakers yesterday.

"Hawai'i has experienced first-hand what it's like to lose productions to other jurisdictions with better, more effective incentives," she said during a legislative hearing on proposed TV and movie industry tax incentives.

Television and film production expenditures in the state fell to an estimated $100 million last year, down from $164 million in 2004, Dawson said. The drop was "due primarily to this competition with other jurisdictions," she said.

"Our local workers have suffered a drop in employment opportunities and many are collecting unemployment compensation between jobs, which are becoming fewer and far between."

Before 2004, the record for television and film spending in Hawai'i was $142 million in 2002.

It was estimated that the number of entertainment-industry jobs fell to about 4,000 statewide last year, compared with about 5,000 jobs during 2004 when three TV shows were in simultaneous production. The Hawai'i Film Office released the figures yesterday as film industry officials lobbied state lawmakers for increased tax incentives to keep and lure new entertainment projects.

Among the incentives discussed yesterday were:

  • Senate Bill 2384, which would allow the state to buy back tax credits benefiting the performing arts industry at a rate of 20 cents for every dollar.

  • Senate Bill 2570, which would create an income tax credit of 15 percent of qualified production costs on O'ahu, and 20 percent on Neighbor Islands. The credits would be capped at $8 million per production.

    No decision was made on the bills yesterday.

    Hawai'i already offers producers a 4 percent tax credit on qualifying expenses and a 100 percent tax credit on investments under the state's Act 215 technology incentive program, formerly Act 225. However, film industry proponents contend those credits are not as easy to use or generous as those offered by other communities.

    Critics of the credits contend they are just a bonus for producers that would shoot projects in Hawai'i anyway.

    According to Dawson, the films that considered shooting in Hawai'i, but filmed elsewhere were:

  • Adam Sandler's "Longest Yard," New Mexico.

  • Clint Eastwood's "Flags of Our Fathers," Iceland.

  • Two planned sequels to "Pirates of the Caribbean," the Caribbean.

  • A remake of the movie "Swiss Family Robinson," Australia.

    Reach Sean Hao at shao@honoluluadvertiser.com.